Local couple helps change the world - Brooklynites featured in President Bill Clinton’s book ‘Giving’

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Former Lincoln High School teacher Mark Grashow and his wife, Sheri Saltzberg, residents of Park Slope, Brooklyn, have been featured in former President Bill Clinton’s latest book, “GIVING: How Each of Us Can Change the World” because of their endeavors to save schools and schoolchildren in Zimbabwe.

For the past couple years, the organization founded by the couple, U.S.-Africa Children’s Fellowship, partnering with the Zimbabwe Organization of Rural Associations for Progress, has been bringing containers of supplies to support the devastated Zimbabwean education system. The supplies are donated by participating sister schools, mainly in Brooklyn, such as Abraham Lincoln, John Dewey, Midwood, and Lafayette High School, intermediate schools such as the Bay Academy and Mark Twain, and elementary schools such as PS 329 and PS 100.

It all started with an invitation to a wedding in Zambia. After the wedding, Saltzberg and Grashow traveled to Zimbabwe to meet a friend of their son’s and take a tour of the country and some local schools.

Hardly a vacation paradise, the southern African nation ruled by Robert Mugabe since its independence in 1980 seemed on the verge of collapse. Recent elections threatening to unseat Mugabe won’t undo the damage anytime soon.

“The inflation rate in Zimbabwe is 66,000 percent, which means the prices double every two weeks,” said Grashow. “There isn’t any electricity, hardly any food or water and one third of the students in school are orphans, due to a devastating AIDS crisis.”

As a former schoolteacher, Grashow was appalled by the schools he and his wife toured. “Since the 1980s, no money has been invested. The buildings have holes in the roofs and broken windows and toilets. The libraries consist of shelves made of boards and bricks, with no books on them. There are no textbooks or science equipment, no pens or pencils. Blackboards were shredded and peeling off the walls. There weren’t even chairs or desks in the classrooms

Updated 3:47 pm, October 19, 2011
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