Tuesday 20 March, 2018

Fifth Grader on a Mission to Collect 10,000 Books for Migrant Children

NRI Pulse Staff Report

Atlanta, GA, April 2: Sanjeev Anand, a DeKalb County fifth-grader, has collected close to 1900 books for the children of migrant families working on Georgia’s farms. His goal: to collect 10,000 books to help with the early childhood education of these children.

Sanjeev’s passion was ignited two years ago after his grandmother, Usha Raghavan, showed him a documentary film called “The Harvest”, a movie which features the lives of children of migrant farm workers. His mother, Priya Srinivasan, and grandmother wanted him to be appreciative and thankful for all the blessings that he has. They also wanted him to be aware of kids who work hard, sometimes in very dangerous conditions, and miss a normal education in order to earn a very meager income.

The movie left a deep impact on the then nine-year-old. “He felt it was unfair that children as young as five could even lose their lives while working in the fields. The fact that these kids do not get a normal education which will affect their future was the most painful for Sanjeev,” said his mother Priya, in an email interview with NRI Pulse.

As part of the curriculum, his school, Fernbank Elementary, requires fifth graders to do a project that reflects the International Baccalaureate (IB) theme. Sanjeev immediately chose to help the migrant farmworker children, especially with their education as his project. Being an avid reader himself, he was thrilled and initiated an action plan to help these children and their families.

With the help of his mom and grandmother, Sanjeev organized book drives at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control, Decatur First United Methodist Church Youth Group, and among friends and family. He collected 452 books in merely three months- from October to December 2014; a feat that got him featured on CBS46 TV.

With the help of kind hearted folks, his school, church consignment sale and Girls Scout donations Sanjeev has collected an additional 1400 books in less than three months in 2015. Sanjeev’s school is very appreciative of his efforts. The teachers, especially the librarian, Ms. Jacobs has donated a great number of books to help support his cause, said mom Priya.

Sanjeev collects books primarily for children ages 0-5 and these books are donated to Telamon Corporation, an organization that runs a Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program for farm worker children in four centers in Georgia. He also collects books for slightly older kids as well to provide for the literacy packs that are distributed to their families. Many of these children do not own even a single book.

From the research that he had done about these children and their families Sanjeev learnt that families migrate often to help harvest crops and live in dilapidated housing. Many farm worker families have a very low literacy rate and earn between $15,000- $18,000 a year which is well below the poverty line. Children aged 5-18 work along with their parents to support their families. The children work with hazardous machinery and in heat exceeding 105°F. They are also exposed to pesticides. More than half of the children drop out before they finish high school. They face serious health problems. Many kids have to switch schools even during a semester. They risk their lives, education, and future to earn less than $1,000 a year.

Apart from his goal to collect 10,000 books, Sanjeev also plans to support migrant farm families through other activities.

If you would like to donate books (new and gently used for children ages 0-8 years) towards Sanjeev’s migrant children book collection, please email him at urag57@gmail.com.

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