Purdue University student shares passion for reading with Jamaicans

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (July 20, 2009) — With her medical school applications in the mail, Purdue University student Anna Menze and family traveled to Jamaica with Food For The Poor, a humanitarian relief and development organization. The purpose of the trip was to visit a library Anna built three years ago to fight illiteracy in rural communities.

As Anna reminisced about her two prior journeys to Jamaica she flipped through photos and helped to pack new children’s books to be housed at the library. This was the first time Anna’s mother, Diane Menze, and sisters, Laura and Allison Menze, would visit The Promise Library.

“I was very excited about having my mom and sisters experience The Promise Library and to meet all of the residents,” said Anna. “Although my dad and I tried to relive and explain the dedication and our last visit, I knew that when they actually experienced it, it would be memorable.”

Anna first traveled with Food For The Poor to Jamaica in 2005, with members of St. Michael Lutheran Church in Ft. Wayne, Ind. During this mission trip Anna met the ambitious part-time waitress, Barbara Gilbert, who was determined to build a village in Jamaica. Inspired by the waitress’s passion, Anna accepted the challenge of building a library for the village.

A year later the motivated 17-year-old from Fort Wayne, Ind., and her father, Ron Menze, traveled to Jamaica to dedicate the library she and classmates helped make a reality. Anna was executive board president of the Homestead High Student Government, when she spearheaded the initiative to build and stock The Promise Library. The group donated 20,000 books through Food For The Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the United States.

In Anna’s most recent trip to Jamaica she celebrated the growth and progress of the residents’ reading skills. It was then that Anna realized she had done more than travel she had made a difference in the world.

“It was awesome for the kids to be able to talk about their favorite books when three years ago that question was met with blank stares,” Anna said.

Food For The Poor staffs The Promise Library with a caretaker to help the children experience the joy of books, while also supervising and helping them with their daily homework. The Promise Library is easily accessible to residents in Eileen Mary Village and Phoenix Park community, in St. Catherine, Jamaica.

“I was so proud of my mom as she read numerous books to the children, as a
kindergarten teacher she reads with so much expression and poise – and the kids
LOVED it!” said Anna.

In addition to visiting The Promise Library, Anna and her family saw the construction site for a Food For The Poor housing project, helped feed the homeless at Open Arms Feeding Center, and gave their time and affection to the physically and mentally handicapped children at Jerusalem’s Children’s Home.

“Anna is a remarkably driven young lady and an excellent role model,” said Angel Aloma, Food For The Poor’s Executive Director. “The gift of a library has helped to break the cycle of poverty that has ensnared a forgotten community for generations. I pray the community will follow Anna’s example in her quest for knowledge and a closeness with God.”

Anna plans to participate in the nonprofit’s All-Nighter for the Poor event at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Ind.

“I will be a Resident Assistant in the fall, so I hope to share my passion for helping those less fortunate than myself with my residents and other Purdue students,” Anna said.

Food For The Poor’s All-Nighter for the Poor will be held on Oct. 16, World Food Day. Through sponsorships and donations, college groups and organizations will help fund programs that enable poverty-stricken communities to feed themselves. Register to participate in All-Nighter for the Poor by calling 1-877-654-2960.

Food For The Poor is the largest international relief and development organization in the nation. More than 97 percent of all donations received in 2008 went directly to programs that help those in need. Food For The Poor provides nourishing food, safe shelter, necessary medical care, educational materials, support for orphans and the aged and much more to the poorest of the poor in 17 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America. For more information, visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.

Jennifer Leigh Oates
Public Relations Coordinator
(954) 427-2222 x 6054