Friday, January 9, 2009

Bob the Builder Award: Toni's Backbacks

Students in Tixkokob, in the Yucatan region of Mexico, with their new backpacks. Courtesy of Javier Hansen

"U.S. Interactors (high school aged students) are honoring a classmate who died in a car accident in 2006 by fulfilling her vision of distributing school supplies to children in Mexico. The Interact Club of Etna Union High School in Northern California has distributed over 400 backpacks filled with crayons, scissors, paper, and other supplies to grade school students in places like Ensenada and Tixkokob. The project was first envisioned by club member Antonia Cornell-Banke, who came up with the idea after several trips to Mexico with the school's Spanish club. "I knew her as a really caring person who was really involved in the community," says Javier Hansen, president of the Etna Interact club and member of the Spanish club.

After Antonia's death, her fellow Interactors carried out her vision, naming the project "Toni's Backpacks" in her honor. Members of the Spanish club have helped out, distributing the school supplies during their annual trip to Mexico.

"It's become a favorite part of their trip. When they finish handing out the backpacks, they want to be a part of Interact too," says Davie Martin, a member of the Rotary Club of Scott Valley (Ft. Jones) and adviser to the Etna Interact club. Martin helps the Interactors connect with Rotary clubs in Mexico to find schools in need of the supplies. The Interact club raises funds to support the project by organizing charity basketball games between the school's varsity boys' team and a local law enforcement team. They also solicit support for the project throughout the community; US$20 sends a backpack loaded with supplies to a student in Mexico. Toni's Backpacks is now in its third year. The project has inspired other regional Interact clubs to start their own backpack programs."