The Inception of G.L.E.A.N.

Books For Africa is pleased to present the story of the inception of G.L.E.A.N. in the words of Co-founder Amir Doctry. If you would like to contribute to G.L.E.A.N.'s container project for Tanzania, which is currently in fundraising, you can do so through BFA's project page!

During the summer of 2019, I was fortunate enough to travel to a country in Africa named Tanzania. While there, I went on a Safari, I made new friends, and I got to see the most beautiful and aesthetically pleasing sites I have ever seen with my own eyes. The people there welcomed me with open arms and my host spent all night waiting for me to arrive at the airport after my flight was delayed several times.

After a few days in Arusha, I travelled to an Island off the coast of Tanzania called Zanzibar. I had no idea how beautiful it would be. Shortly after my arrival in Zanzibar, I went to the beach where I met two “Beach Boys” named Ramadan(Rama) and Machete. Initially, they tried to sell me guided trips and excursions but shortly after that we began having conversations about how they became stranded on that beach with the only means of survival being selling tours to tourists. They explained to me that due to their poor quality of education and lack of opportunities, they couldn't realize their dreams. Rama, however, was very educated and was a teacher but he was out of work.

A few days later I asked them to take me to a local neighborhood school. I know that through education, all dreams can be realized. I wanted to help Rama and Machete get their own business but more importantly, I wanted to examine the educational system that had left them with so few opportunities for success.

On August 26th 2019, Rama and Machete took me to the Nungwi Primary School which was just a short walk away from the beach. That day would change my life and my heart forever. I interviewed the head teacher, Mr. Ame. I explained to him that I wanted to see what challenges he faced as the leader of the school. I toured the entire school. What I saw was both eye opening and heartbreaking. I observed one teacher teaching a class of 135 students with one book and a piece of chalk. I saw a class of 6 year old children having lessons while sitting on the floor. I talked to teachers that were ill- equipped and underprepared to teach a modern education. I witnessed facilities and an infrastructure that was more suited to house livestock than human beings. There were no lights, dirt floors, and absolutely NO technology whatsoever. There was only one water well and not enough toilets for the school that had 3,700 students.

After seeing all of that and returning to Mr. Ame´s Office, he explained to me that the youngest students lived there sleeping on the floor and that during most of the day, they had nothing to eat. I took a look around his office that had one old dusty P.C. and a non-functional printer. Then, I looked up to see his students data and the scores on their exams were very high. I started to feel that feeling that you get in your stomach right before the dip in a roller coaster. All of my emotions began to pour out. I cried harder than I ever cried before. They were tears of anger and disbelief that in this day and age, a travesty this big could be occurring. What I saw that day couldn´t be unseen. I felt the responsibility to act. I needed to give back. At the time, I didn't know exactly how but I made a promise to those students, Mr. Ame, Machete and Rama, that I would do something to help. It would be more than money. It would be a sustainable solution that would provide them with a better quality of education for the future and help them succeed.  Fast forward to September of 2019. It was the first day of school and I was excited to start implementing my plan. I showed a documentary styled video of my journey to my class of 6th graders at Renaissance Middle School in Montclair, NJ. My students watched in disbelief as I walked around the school assessing the situation. Some of them cried. The room was so silent you could hear a pin drop. When the video was over, I asked “Now who wants to help?” Every single student raised their hand. It was that day that the Idea of a class I created named “Global Citizen” was born.

In October, I was watching a Ted Talk of a teacher from South Africa named Steve Sherman. He introduced the concept of the Global Classroom and using technology to prepare students for the future. I reached out to him and he immediately responded. He invited me to a Facebook group full of teachers from all over the world called “Mystery Skype in the Classroom”. In this group, teachers team up with each other to play games in which their students try to figure out where one another are geographically located. Steve made a post introducing me to all 40,000 members of the group and told them about my project that introduced students all over the world to one another with the missions of getting to know each other, becoming friends, and working on global charity projects together. The first teacher I began mystery Skyping with was from Vietnam. The next teacher was from Japan. Then one teacher from Russia and one more from Belarus.

On February 4th my elective class called “Global Citizen” began. Over the next few months,through Flipgrid, over 100 students from the five countries introduced themselves, showed each other around their neighborhoods and confided in one another throughout the pandemic by having bi-weekly live meetings I called “Ambassadors Conferences”.

The topic of one of the Ambassadors Conferences was a brainstorming session on what we could do collectively to help Tanzania. On June 19th 2020 we sent out emails at the same time to Unicef to ask for help with our mission of fundraising for Tanzania and G.L.E.A.N. was born! The next week, we partnered with a local Montclair based non-profit that helped us raise over $1,000 to send supplies to the Nungwi school.

Even though we had raised money for supplies, we struggled to find ways to ship the goods to Tanzania. It wasn´t until months later that I found out about Books For Africa.

Books For Africa helped us achieve our goal that was extremely illusive. Up until our partnership with Books For Africa, I was beginning to think that my dream of helping the students in Nungwi wouldn't have been possible. Through the fundraising platform that was given to us, all of our hard work and efforts are finally being realized. I will forever be grateful for that.

Amir Doctry, Co-founder, G.L.E.A.N.

Books For Africa is also pleased to report that Ethel Lanman (pictured below) sponsored 2,020 books to Tanzania in honor of her grandson, Amir Doctory, on the occasion of her 90th birthday! In Ethel's own words, "I am very happy to make a donation of books because they are a great treasure and to pass that on to the younger generation is my pleasure."

We would also like to share some videos from a recent book distribution under the G.L.E.A.N. project, with a thank-you message from Mr. Ame himself along with the unboxing and a thank-you message from students!