Man on Peace Corps mission
Tahoe Montessori students are getting a close look at a far-away culture.
Brennan Wenck, a former student at Montessori, is working and living in the small town of Chacopampa in southern Bolivia and sharing his experiences with students at his alma mater.
Fifteen years after leaving Tahoe Montessori, Wenck visited the school last September with an interesting request.
“Brennan said he had recently graduated from Santa Clara University, joined the Peace Corps and would soon be leaving for training,” Montessori teacher Susan Ward said. “He asked if the Tahoe Montessori School would become his sponsoring school in a special Partnership Program that matches a Peace Corps member and an American classroom for the member’s two-year stay.”
Students were thrilled to receive Wenck’s letters, e-mails and pictures. He told them of his travels and adventures. He wrote of poverty.
“You see, where I live the people are very poor,” Wenck wrote in his first letter. “Most can’t afford to buy toothbrushes so they have to brush their teeth with their fingers or sticks. That is if they brush their teeth. Some of the families don’t have water or bathrooms in their houses.”
Receiving news of the Bolivian children’s need for what may be considered everyday necessities, the students decided they wanted to serve as more than just Wenck’s pen pals. They set their minds to raising money to help the people of Chacopampa.
Eighteen students, ages 8 to 11, raised $500 in one day selling T-shirts donated by Sierra Shirts. They also received more than $1,000 in donations from other sources.
Wenck wrote a letter thanking students for their efforts and support. He listed some ways the money could be put to use, including building a playground at the elementary school, a new greenhouse and buying books and encyclopedias for the high school. He offered students the opportunity to choose which project they wanted their money to go toward.
The kids chose to help sponsor a library.
“They don’t have a library in their town and if they had a library, they could learn more about farming and get an education,” said Chelsea Seelbinder, 10. “They can learn more if they have more books.”
Wenck, who already participated in building a new cafeteria at the town high school and a greenhouse, approached the mayor of Chacopampa and several of his friends about building a library. Wenck wrote and said they loved the idea.
“The (Chacopampa) community is going to donate all the materials and labor to build the library,” said Wenck, who spends many of his days teaching eight different English classes and working in the corn fields. “That way, we can use all the money you have to buy books. They work a lot with agriculture and animals, so they want to get a lot of books on these subjects. I have also found a good encyclopedia set for about $500.”
Third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Tahoe Montessori School talked Monday about some of the things they have learned through Wenck.
“The people in Bolivia are very poor and Brennan is trying to teach them and get them books and a library for education,” said Steven Segal, 10. “It just makes me feel really good to know about this stuff. We’re helping the people in Bolivia and we should help people all over the world. If someone needs something, we should try to help them.”
Eight-year-old Tyler Mundy shared similar sentiments.
“It’s a lot different over there than modern days here,” Mundy said. “We have shoes. They’re barefoot. They’re very poor and we need to help our world and keep making it a better place.”
Ward said she is excited about Wenck’s involvement with her students.
“We love getting his letters and e-mails,” she said. “They give us such a different insight.”
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