How did One School. One Hope. begin?
It all started with a book…
Fort Mill Middle School launched their first-ever One Book, One School project with the book I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda, as told by Liz Welch. In this true story, American high school student, Caitlin, is given a pen pal from Zimbabwe as part of her English class assignment. Her pen pal, Martin, replies to her letter and begins to share with her what life is like in Zimbabwe for him and his family. The story of their developing friendship is told in alternating chapters from each of their points of view. Martin is a top-notch student but struggles to attend school due to financial reasons. When he slips in his studies, his mother tells him, “Education is your only hope.”
At one point in the story, Caitlin realizes that the money she so easily spends at the mall on earrings and other non-essential items could actually feed Martin’s entire family for weeks and pay for his and his siblings’ school tuition. With the help of her parents, she begins to formulate a plan to help his family and help Martin achieve an education. When the Fort Mill Middle School, students completed this book, they wanted to help other students in the world like Martin – students who were living in desperate situations and whose families were struggling to survive and provide for their children. This is how One School, One Hope began.
The quote from the book “Education is your only hope” stuck with these students and became their guiding light. It led them to partner with Education Equals Hope, a local non-profit organization based in Fort Mill, South Carolina. After Treva Hammond, the Literary Specialist at Fort Mill Middle School, participated in a Vision Experience in Quito, Ecuador with Education Equals Hope, her school launched its One School. One Hope. Outreach Project. They focused their efforts on supporting Carmen Bajo, a community center which assists 150 students in Quito with school-related costs as well as provides a hot meal each day. They then expanded their outreach project to include helping young women who have been rescued out of vulnerable situations by the Education Equals Hope site, Casa Adalia.