Sparkt Bridges

Teens Changing The World, "One Book" At A Time

A group of North Allegheny seniors collect "tween" reading level books to send to English-learners in foreign countries. Part of the Sparkt Bridges series, made possible with the support of UPMC.

This story is part of a bi-weekly series that celebrates people who are reaching across a divide to "build bridges" with those different from themselves. The Sparkt Bridges project is made possible with the support of UPMC.

When you talk about building bridges, the one that Shudipto Wahed and his friends are building reaches halfway around the world.

When Shudipto visited his cousins in Bangladesh, he'd meet people who were trying to learn English, but didn't have a lot of resources -- like books -- to help them practice. Back home, he and his classmates at North Allegheny High School had more books than they needed.

That's when the light bulb went off: why not collect these extra books and send them to developing countries!? He recruited some friends, and they started a non-profit called "One Book." They showed Wendy Bell how they're changing the world one book at a time.

Shudipto and his four friends have focused on collecting "tweener" and teen books -- think Beverly Cleary, Magic Treehouse, Diary of a Wimpy Kid -- that are easy for adult learners to comprehend, but still entertaining to read.

Classmate and One Book co-founder Nick Marcenelle Perez sees the value in what they're doing. He spent a semester in Panama. "A lot of the kids there, they have English classes, but they don't have the materials to grow the knowledge they have," explained Nick.

"I think the book can change the whole world. There is so much conflict out there. This is one step." Abdus Wahed, Shudipto's father

One Book's book drives have been successful so far. But it's the cost of shipping the books that's the real challenge. The young men started by asking friends and family travelling abroad to pack books in their luggage and deliver them to schools. Now that that they're an official non-profit they can fundraise and apply for grants to pay for shipping the books.

Want to help Shudipto and his friends change the world? You can contribute to One Book's GoFundMe campaign and follow them on Twitter .

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The Sparkt Bridges Project is produced with the generous support of UPMC. Life Changing Medicine.

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