Books to Africa

Hood River turns pages over to Nigeria

Hood River Valley High School students saw how words connect continents, and it had nothing to do with the Internet.

Old-fashioned textbooks now link Hood River to a city in the west African nation of Nigeria, thanks to the collective efforts of students and citizens in this community, and a Gresham man.

Nigerian-born Ken Onyima came to HRV last week in the final stop on a literal, and literary, pilgrimage. Onyima, 43, thanked students and others who helped donate books for a school in Owerri, Nigeria. He matched news of how the effort helps education in his developing country, with a message for the American kids on the value of learning.

Last spring the high school, Westside Elementary, and Friends of Hood River County Library helped Onyima collect textbooks and other materials for students in Owerri. The effort filled a shipping container that is now on its way to Nigeria.

"This is the climax of our project, a fulfillment to see these kids and thank them," Onyima said. He dressed in colorful Nigerian garb as he spoke to about 250 students and showed them slide photos of his homeland, including the metal-roofed school where children attend without shoes.

"I'm giving you a tiny window into my world," said Onyima, who was educated in the United States -- after his extended family contributed money for several years -- and now serves as senior planner for the City of Gresham.

He grew up in the oil-rich coastal area of Nigeria, one of the world's top petroleum-producing nations.

"The gas you put in your cars -- I bet you'd be surprised how much of it comes from Nigeria," Onyima told the students. Growing up, he got to know Americans working in the oil industry. They told him a college degree was the only way to succeed.

"It's a long, long process," said Onyima, who once taught third grade. "But you are all making the greatest step you can do, to stay in school and go on to college. High school alone does not cut it any more," he said.

Each year he returns to Owerri with donated school items from the United States.

"I can't sit back and eat cheeseburgers and say, `I've got it made'," he said. "There are still lots of people to help out."

Retired HRV teacher Jean Harmon heard about Onyima's efforts in another city and got in touch with him. She asked county library director June Iverson for her help, and the effort spread to the schools.

"This has been our most interesting way to get rid of excess materials," Iverson said.

"A huge favor," is what HRV assistant principal Martha Capovilla called the Owerri project. "We are so glad to have found a useful place for an entire roomful of books we could no longer use.

"Those kids (in Nigeria) are thrilled to have any textbook," she said.

Latest stories

Latest video:

Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

Log in to comment

News from our Community Partners