CU of Colorado Board Member Brightens the Lives of African Children
GREELY, Colo. -- After retiring from the Colorado State Patrol, Credit Union of Colorado Board Member Shirley Forbes lives a life that is far from the typical retiree.
In 2001, Forbes took her first trip to Africa on a tour group safari and began what would become the Tanzania School Mission Team.
"On the last day of my trip we visited a school and I literally fell in love with the children," Forbes said. "I promised them that I would come back."
On her flight home Forbes came up with the idea for the Tanzania School Mission Team, which she started through her church in 2002. The team has raised over $60,000 for schools in Tanzania and has provided students with books, school supplies, clothing and toys. Forbes will be making her seventh trip to Tanzania with the team this fall.
The team concentrates on two primary schools and two secondary schools in Tanzania. Fuka Primary School is one of the schools Forbes visits and has helped complete the construction of a two room kindergarten that holds approximately 200 kindergarteners.
"The children sit five to a desk and share one book," Forbes said. "When they're given a notebook they literally use every space on the paper. They write three lines in one space and write in the margins, they don't waste anything."
Banjika is a secondary school where Forbes and her mission team worked to pave the floor the old fashioned way. They had to sift sand, carry bags of cement, mix with shovels and carry water by the bucket full in order to complete the project.
"We didn't have a cement truck; we did hard labor."
Each time the team visits Africa they provide a feast at one school for the children. They go to the market to purchase all the food and cook it for the children. At one school the team fed 1,100 children and 800 at another. Each school they visit they also deliver a homemade book bag with a beanie baby, a work book that is purchased in Africa to help the economy, a paperback chapter book, crayons, pencils and pens, a ruler, a calculator for secondary students and a trinket of some kind. While most of the items are donated, Forbes and the wives of troopers she knows from the Colorado State Patrol make the bags. So far the team has given out 5,000 bags.
"They've never been given anything in their life, so to just give them a pencil they think they have the world," Forbes said. "They don't have anything and they will cling to whatever you give them."
To raise funds for the team Forbes makes specialty pillowcases with Disney characters, sports teams, animals and other designs that she sells for $12 and donates 100% of the funds she makes. So far she has made more than 5,000 cases.
Forbes' church also contributes to the team as well as people that Forbes has never even met.
"Many times people that go to Africa and have the same guides that I had will hear about me through them and they then contribute to the fund."
The Credit Union of Colorado makes a donation to each trip Forbes makes, they donate space for her to sell her pillow cases, loan her projectors so that she can make presentations, pay her wire fees for her to wire money to her credit union account in Africa. The credit union has donated shirts and items for the book bags and has paid for her to ship over extra items to give to the children.
Forbes said that each time she goes she learns a little more and sees the results of her previous trips as she sees children carrying the bags and trinkets and wearing donated shirts.
"We're not covering the whole country, but we're spreading a little bit of light to a small part of Tanzania," she said.