Marblehead Rotary helps buy desks for African students

Rotary’s Charles Miler raised more than $15,000 to buy desks for young African students. Photo by The Rotary Club of Marblehead

The Rotary Club of Marblehead announced on Jan. 20 that its member Charlie Milner has raised more than $15,000, or the equivalent of 750 “tutu” desks for young students in Africa.

Marblehead Rotary’s Milner recognizes that education is the pathway to economic mobility and a proven tool for solving global poverty. Milner and his wife have invested 24 years of community service in furthering education in South Africa’s rural communities. This outlook has also been the focus of Milner’s Lillydale Literacy Project, a nonprofit organization.

When Milner came across the idea of the Tutu Desk, he was very excited by it, according to the release. 95 million children in sub-Saharan Africa need a working desk at school, and Milner said, “the lack of basic resources like desks holds learners back from achieving even a basic education.”

Rosie Segil from the Rotary Club of Marblehead said they supported this idea of fundraising in an interview. According to her, Milner will collect money every week from his followers and contributors to meet his goal of $15,000. The accessible cost of $20 per Tutu Desk is about the equivalent of 4 cups of tall latte at the local coffee shop – a worthwhile project everyone can get behind.

The Tutu desk, in the photo, is a desk board without legs that is easy to carry around for students. When put on a student’s nap, the board becomes a desk.

The learning environment influences the quality of education a child receives, the release pointed out. According to Segil, many students in Africa would have to take classes in a room without a roof.  “They have to at least have something to write on,” said Segil.

In the dire need to supply portable and sustainable workstations for children needing desks at school and home, the late Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu founded the Tutu Desk campaign in 2012 in partnership with the United Nations Special Envoy for Education. Made from a sturdy, child-friendly blend of polymers, the desks can last the duration of a learner’s school career. It is also handy and colorful, with math, alphabet charts, times table, and a regional map. Finally, it has a hole cut-out, which makes it easy to transport from home and back to school. Since its launch, the nonprofit organization has provided more than 1.5 million desks to disadvantaged African children, according to the release.

Milner sets the goal of the Tutu Desk Campaign to deliver 20 million desks to African children in need by 2025. At the press time, he was in South Africa in person to meet the designer of the tutu desks to deliver his ideas of improvement on the design.

“We had a very congenial dinner with PDG (Past District Governor) Francis Callard and PDG Shirley Downie shortly after we arrived in Johannesburg on (last) Thursday evening. Both are on the Rotary steering committee for tutu desks, ” said Milner after his arrival in Africa.

Marblehead Rotary and Lillydale Literacy Project hope to engage the community, especially the Marblehead High School students. As Segil explained, students help student.  Marblehead Rotary is looking to set up a global grant and partner with a rotary club in Africa. Then they can raise fund in Marblehead locally and club in Africa can distribute essential amenities.