“If you are really passionate about something you should do it. If you have a passion for giving then give; there is never going to be a lack of need for something, so any support you can give will always help someone in need.”
By Sharmain Grainger
Although many people embrace the notion that parents can make children but not their minds, there is no denying that parents’ influence can either be detrimental or beneficial. It is for this reason, I imagine, that King Solomon in the biblical book of Proverbs made it pellucid, the importance of training children in a good way so that when they are older it will remain embedded in them.
At barely 14 years old, it is clear that Alexandra Beharry-Yambo [daughter of Michelle Beharry and Edward Yambo] has received that good training to which the wise King Solomon alluded.
You see, little Alexandra over the past few years has been making a colossal impact on the lives of many teachers and young children like herself because of an initiative she started back in 2016. The initiative has evolved into a full-fledged charitable organisation that has been helping to meet the school material needs of many local students.
What is interesting to note, however, is that Alexandra was not born nor does she live here in Guyana, but rather, her mother is the one who hails from these shores. The lass, who was born and resides in Florida, United States, during a recent interview disclosed that although over the few years of her existence she has visited Guyana on occasions, she was not aware that some students had a dire need for simple school items such as pencils, pens, erases, markers, glue, rulers, construction, file and graph papers, and hands sanitizer, among other things.
But upon learning about this through her mother, Alexandra became eager to lend support. “My mother, she is from Guyana, and she was aware there was a need for things like that. She mentioned the idea to me – ‘what if we collect all the school supplies at the end of the year?’, and I kind of ran with the idea to donate them,” Alexandra related.
At the time she was just an 11-year-old Fifth Grader at a Franklin Academy School in Florida.
Giving the support was very possible since, according to the enthusiastic student, “These [items] are usually purchased by the parents for each child at the beginning of the school year. At the end of the year, kids would come back with a bag of school supplies that they never use, that just have to be thrown away because we have to buy new ones each year. So we thought, what if we collected that stuff that we never use, because it is usually good quality, and give them to people who need them in Guyana.”
Eager to save items for those in need, Alexandra, with the support of her mother, decided to pen a letter to the school, and complete with a poster and power point presentation detailing the charitable proposal, sought the support of the principal and Fifth Grade teachers of the school. Of course, other students came on board with the blessings of their parents, allowing for a ginormous venture to take off.
The first year , the students were able to save about 100 pounds of quality schools items from being tossed into the landfill system. Instead they were shipped to Guyana, compliments of HAB International Inc. [Hab.it], a shipping company here in Guyana, owned by Alexandra’s maternal grandfather, Mr. Harold Beharry.
The items went to a number of students here in Guyana, a process which was organised by friends of Alexandra’s mother who had earlier did the groundwork to establish that there was a need for the items that were available to be donated. Many photographs of children here in Guyana utilising the items donated, warmed Alexandra’s heart.
“It was almost shocking, because I guess I was not completely aware that the need was so great in Guyana, and then seeing how they were able to use it for different projects and stuff for which they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise, was amazing,” she excitedly shared.
Of course, this made her even more enthusiastic about the project, so much so that it was repeated the following year, and before long had expanded to another school within the Franklin Academy network in Florida. The initiative essentially became an annual feature that this Capricorn-born [January 1] teenager has been enjoying with her mother and older brother, Christopher. Others schools have since sought to get on board.
“I kept doing it because there was still a need,” said Alexandra as she added, “If you are really passionate about something you should do it. If you have a passion for giving then give; there is never going to be a lack of need for something, so any support you can give will always help someone in need.”
Even as she prepares for her first year of high school and caresses the idea of a profession in the arts, possibly acting, Alexandra does not see the charitable venture coming to an end. Rather, she anticipates it considerably expanding, even on a global scale.
“I do believe it will get bigger, and I hope it can, because we would want to consider reaching out to other countries as well through partnerships,” said Alexandra, as she explained the focused attention that is given to each item donated.
“People sometimes don’t realise that although these are called used supplies, we sort through them; we test all the markers, ensure the pens have ink and that the pencils are sharpened and stuff like that before packing and sending them off…Yes they are used, but they are of very good quality,” she assured.
Another shipment of items is slated to leave Florida destined for Guyana within a week, and Alexandra is even more eager for them to reach to the hands of those in need, than she was back in 2016.
Her mother, Michelle, is equally enthusiastic to see her daughter remain committed to such a noble venture, and she too has been unwaveringly lending her support.
In fact, she disclosed that the donations which have been significantly increasing each year and shipped free of cost annually by HAB International will instead this year benefit from the sea freight shipping services of a gentleman by the name of Roland Smith. This year, the supplies being donated have amounted to some 6000 pounds. “He [Roland Smith] has always given us support…he has picked up the entire shipping cost this year,” Michelle disclosed.This, however, will not register as a loss to Smith, as the venture, Used Tools 4 Kids [www.usedtool4skids.org], was earlier this year registered as a 501(c)(3) Corporation, which means that persons giving support in the United States are eligible for tax write-offs. A move in this direction was necessary since, “We are trying to move towards expanding it, so of course we can’t keep doing it out of pocket,” said Michelle, of the charitable venture.
This therefore means that efforts will have to be focused on some fundraising activities. In this regard, the organisation just last week launched its first crowd funding campaign on Facebook [Used Tools 4 Kids] through which persons can make donations to help offset the additional costs that will have to be met to facilitate shipment. This has essentially become a full-time task for Michelle, who even had to resign her job as part of her father’s company to dedicate more time and energy to seeing her daughter’s vision remain a sustained success even as it expands.“We have sent items to Venezuela too, but the reason so much of it is concentrated on Guyana is because I have the support system there. We are trying to perfect this system in Guyana so that we can start to collaborate with other organisations in other places, and at least know the framework we are working with…what’s needed for transportation, what’s needed for clearing, because each geographic location will have its own requirement,” Michelle explained.
She anticipates that this will be the last year of solidifying the process in Guyana, which will see the organisations being able from next year to operate independently through fundraising activities and thereby being able to expand to other countries too.
As she reflected on how the venture has evolved, Michelle made reference to the importance of naming a child, even as she noted that Alexandra has in fact been living up to hers [the defender of mankind].
The supplies that have been donated over the years through Alexandra’s venture have reached many students at more than 20 schools across four regions of the country, and there are plans for even more to benefit. Her charitable work has been well documented by her mother and was even recently featured on NBC 6’s television newscast in the United States.
For this sustained, noble, attention-grabbing venture, which was crystallised by her mother and evolved through her passion for giving, today we at Kaieteur News recognize Alexandra Beharry-Yambo as a deserving ‘Special Person’.
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