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North Kitsap ships elementary books to Kenya

Tracy Zeringer has spearheaded the two-year Books for Kwaupanga effort. - Jennifer Morris/Staff Photo
Tracy Zeringer has spearheaded the two-year Books for Kwaupanga effort.
— image credit: Jennifer Morris/Staff Photo

POULSBO — Two years ago, when Poulsbo’s Tracy Zeringer heard 4,000 books in the North Kitsap School District were about to be recycled due to a change in curriculum, she immediately came up with another plan.

Instead of sending the text and literature books the way of the three-arrowed triangle, why not pass them on to readers in need of their own inked and bound essentials? The solution may not be as green, but it certainly has a positive impact on the planet. In fact, the books will be traveling half way around it as they head to Kwaupanga, a small Kenyan village Zeringer visited two years ago with her sister’s Denver-based church group.

Since being there, she and her husband Ken Zeringer have organized Books for Kwaupanga, an Expanding Opportunities-sponsored effort that has worked to raise funds to ship and deliver the English language elementary level books as well as order and deliver Kiswahili books to kids waiting to get their hands on the treasure of the written word. Kiswahili and English are the co-national languages of the country.

“I had brought some books and they were just so eager to read these books,” Zeringer said of the kids she met in Kwaupanga. “They really had no books in their school.”

Zeringer, a first-grade teacher at Poulsbo Elementary, said the kids would even stop soccer games to check out the readable merchandise, and would swarm to hear her as she read.

Though the NKSD books are outdated — many of them more than a decade old — “they’re still worthwhile books and stories,” Zeringer said. The school was selling them and planned on recycling the rest.

Instead, they went to Books for Kwaupanga, and Zeriger’s garage has been chockablock with them for the past two years.

“I’ve had my (Honda) CRV since last November, it has not seen the garage. My husband has not seen his garage,” Zeringer said with a laugh.

She enlisted the help of several members of the community, including the North Kitsap Optimists Club – of which Zeringer is a member, some Poulsbo Elementary third-graders who sold key chains as a fundraiser for the cause while studying their Africa learning unit, Mor Mor Bistro, which donated a percentage of sales on certain days throughout May to the nonprofit endeavor, and individual donations.

Thursday morning the combined efforts were well under way, as Hill Moving lent a helping hand in loading eight moving pallets of books, transferring them from Zeringer’s garage to a container scheduled to leave Poulsbo yesterday. The shipment will head out of Tacoma July 23, and, if the schedule is stuck to, will arrive in Mombasa on Sept. 12.

“It feels great,” Zeringer said. “It’s good to know that they’re going where they can be well-used.”

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