(EAST ORANGE/ORANGE, NJ) - Yasmeen Haruna, East Orange native, earned a full scholarship to The Peddie School, a private boarding school in Hightstown, NJ. Yasmeen initiated The Ghana Book Drive at her school to give back to her family's home country of Ghana.
To date, over 350 books (and counting) have been collected in Annenberg Hall, awaiting a greater destiny in the hands of students at underfunded schools in Ghana. This is the result of a joint effort between two members of the Peddie community: Yasmeen Haruna ’21 and Sangu Delle ’06, managing director of Africa Health Holdings, co-founder of Cleanacwa, a nonprofit organization that provides clean water to underdeveloped regions, and Peddie School trustee. Haruna’s the mastermind. When her Modern Global teacher, Richard Maley, encouraged her to get involved with some form of international community service, Haruna wanted to focus on education.
“Since I was little, my family — especially my mom — has taught me about the importance of education and how, as Michelle Obama said, education is the ‘ultimate key’ to success.” says Haruna. “So I thought, why not try to provide something small like a book to help another child who doesn’t have the opportunities that I have in America? The project combines my passion for education with my love for Ghana.”
Maley connected Haruna and Delle. Though they had never met, their families are both from Ghana and they share a passion for philanthropy, so they made natural partners for this project. “The first time I called him, I wasn’t expecting a British accent,” says Haruna. “He’s super down to earth and he was cracking jokes — he’s this renowned, award-winning, TedX talk-giving, Harvard alumnus, but he’s just doing his thing. I was so humbled to work with him and I’m happy that he’s willing to work with little me from New Jersey.” It was crucial to Haruna that the Peddie community be included in this project, and Delle agreed. The two solidified their ideas last summer: Haruna would run the drive at Peddie and Delle would collect and distribute the books to schools in Northern Ghana.
In December 2019, the two put their project into action.
Haruna wasn’t sure what to expect from her classmates, but almost immediately, there was a strong response. “I started getting questions from students all across the grades. People I’ve never spoken to, reaching out to me asking, 'How can I help? How can I contribute to this in any way possible?' The faculty responded amazingly, beautifully. I didn’t expect that many people to participate.”
Peddie community members weren’t the only ones to contribute. Neighbors at Hightstown Library donated books as well. As more people donate by the day, Haruna and Delle’s project continues to grow.
"It just plays into the fact that Peddie truly is the community that it says it is."
Haruna says, “It just plays into the fact that Peddie truly is the community that it says it is. Peddie holds itself in such a high regard when it comes to community and taking care of its students, both on a personal and academic level. I really saw that with this drive, that people truly do care about others and want to help and give back. It’s not just words, but their actions.”
Haruna sees a bright future for her project. She plans to continue it next year and hopes to pass the project on to another student when she leaves Peddie. She’s also excited to follow in Sangu Delle’s footsteps and mentor other Peddie students as he mentored her.
“I can’t wait to start working with Peddie kids when I get older and graduate from this school. I’m really excited to reach back, pay it forward and give back to the Peddie community that continues to give back to me.”
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