JACKSON TWP. — West African students at E’cole Renaissance des Sourds changed the way one Back Mountain resident saw the world. Now, she’s trying to change their world through a crowdfunding campaign.
In 2013, Susan Roese, a retired elementary art teacher from Lake-Lehman School District, volunteered her time and money to fund a personal mission to help a school for the deaf, E’cole Renaissance des Sourds in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa, develop an art program.
Roese became captivated by the people, culture and children of the region.
“It was a mind-blowing experience,” she said. “I have never been to a country with that kind of poverty and handicaps.”
Now, the Jackson Township resident is preparing for her third trip to the country and needs help to gain funding to provide art supplies and daily necessities such as art supplies, clothing, shoes and blankets to the nearly 96 deaf students enrolled at E’cole Renaissance des Sourds. Students range in age from five to 20 years old, she said.
Roese is trying a new method of online fundraising called crowdfunding.
“I saw a television news story about crowdfunding and thought I would give it a try,” the 69-year-old said.
On Jan. 4, Roese set up a crowdfunding account on GoFundMe with a goal to raise $1,500 by Feb. 28. To date, she has raised $635 from the site but also has received many mailed donations.
Monetary donations are preferred, she said, because shipping items to the African country are expensive. Plus, she is limited to a luggage weight of 120 pounds.
“I try to avoid carrying too much,” Roese said. “I take only items that I know are not available (in Senegal, West Africa).”
She will be packing art paper, poster board and colored pencils in with her clothing for her seven-week trip, slated for later this winter.
“Paper is very expensive there,” she said. “Paper can also be very heavy.”
Roese’s connection to the school and its students runs deep. After that first strip, she traveled back again in 2014 and provided blankets to the students in the dorms.
Nearly a third of the student population reside in “sparse dorm rooms” that consist of a bed, linens, a stool and a very old television, she said. Two-thirds of the students walk to school daily through dirt streets, Roese said.
Many of the families are poor and struggle to meet the school’s annual tuition of $253.71 for commuting students or $1,191.89 for students living in dorms, Roese said.
“There are lots of ways for people to help out,” she said. “They can sponsor a student and pay for their tuition through RPEC International, a Christian organization in California.”
The value of the school’s art program is growing, she said.
“I try to teach techniques and skills that students can use to make and sell things,” she said. “This trip I will be teaching them to weave and paper flower making.”
The art classes also provide students another way to express themselves, Roese said.
She recalled one student who made a picture, half in green, yellow and red — the colors of Senegal — and the other half in red, white and blue for America.
“It was a great way to express friendship,” she said.
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.