By Mark Lazenby, a member of the Rotary Club of Durham, North Carolina, USA
Sixth-grade students from Y.E. Smith Elementary School traded big smiles and stories about school work and home life with counterparts in India during a big-screen video conference at the headquarters of Duke Corporate Education in downtown Durham.
Not surprisingly, the conversation turned to food and eating. Favorite holidays and hobbies were discussed. There was even talk of basketball and cricket. In India, a boy listed his pets – dogs, donkeys and pigeons. The Durham students closed the session with their rendition of the “Andy and Elmer’s Apple Dumpling Adventure” which is based upon and promotes Rotary’s Four-Way Test. Durham Chef Ashlyn Smith of Spicy Green Gourmet even demonstrated how the dumplings are made.
Our club organized the 70-minute video conference in March with Duke Corporate Education, using their facilities in Durham and Ahmedabad, to enhance volunteer literacy and our reading program, “Rotary Reading Rangers.” The 20-month-old program matches volunteer tutors with students at the elementary school and a local middle school.
More than 35 tutors have volunteered more than 525 hours of one-on-one support to more than 30 students so far this year alone. The program is supported by clubs in Durham and throughout District 7710. Together, we have contributed more than $24,000 to literacy and scholarship programs in Durham, collected over 54,000 books to give to local children, and provided nearly $100,000 in school supplies and donations to area programs.
Y.E. Smith Principal Letisha Judd says the school has documented improvements in all students who have sought the help of Ranger tutors. Some of the students have shown reading growth of up to a year-and-a-half.
We are hoping to hold additional video conferences with Brazil, the United Kingdom, and other cities in India. The idea is to encourage kids to share with kids from other cultures some of the things they’ve been reading and learning.
Todd Taylor, a member of our club, North American facilities manager for Duke Corporate Education, and creator and organizer of the Ranger initiative, said the video conference had many benefits. “Now they’ll know and have acquaintances from the other side of the world. They can do away with stereotypes of what kids are like in India or North Carolina. They can build knowledge through reading and sharing, and they get real-time exposure to other cultures and kids that was unthinkable not so long ago.”
- Learn more about the Reading Rangers program
- Browse Rotary Showcase for more literacy projects or share your own
- Connecting with youth online? Seek permission from parents/guardians and make sure you are following local laws and guidelines.