Backpacks to Warm Hearts: Columbia, MO
Every August, prior to the start of the school year, volunteers from the Sri Sathya Sai Center of Columbia, MO get together to fill backpacks with essential school supplies, which are then distributed to elementary grade students from families in need. Since the project was initiated in 2013, the number of backpacks donated has increased from 24 to 48 over the years with additional contributions by several like-minded community members. Backpacks filled with supplies are delivered to non-profit organizations, City of Refuge and Rainbow House, for distribution to students during their annual Back-to-School event. The City of Refuge provides counseling and assistance to refugees and immigrants resettled in Missouri, while Rainbow House provides emergency shelter to children who are in foster care or are houseless.
In August 2022, eight Sai volunteers packed 48 backpacks with essential school supplies as recommended by the Columbia Public School system including items such as crayons, regular and color pencils, scissors, erasers, markers, pencil pouches, hand sanitizers and facial tissue boxes. Forty backpacks were delivered to the City of Refuge and eight backpacks were dropped off at the Rainbow House. Additional school supplies such as composition and spiral notebooks were also delivered. Several sets of new clothing items such as socks and undergarments were also provided for the immigrant and refugee children served by the City of Refuge.
The school liaison at the City of Refuge appreciated the Sai group's generosity in helping so many students get the school year off to a good start. The Director of the City of Refuge also expressed gratitude for Sai volunteers’ efforts at making their Back-to-School Bash a resounding success and their commitment to making the community a great home for refugees. A volunteer who helped to fill the backpacks noted, "As a student in high school, I realize that in the U.S., we take many things for granted. However, many low-income families may not have access to vital school supplies like we do. The Edupack project has been an eye-opener, making us aware of how vital it is to help our refugee and immigrant families who are struggling, especially their young ones, to gain access to education." The Edupack project is an uplifting project, and Sai volunteers look forward to filling the backpacks year after year. Providing school supplies gives immense joy, especially since it brings smiles to the innocent faces of students in need who receive its benefits.