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D-181 works to feed Tanzanian students

HINSDALE – Come January, there will be a few inalienable truths. Freezing days will make regular appearances, the sun will set a little later each day and half way across the world, Kellie O’Brien will be standing in the Massai village with tears in her eyes.

“I cry every time,” O’Brien said. “I just think of all the people for one whole week who dropped things off at the house and made all this possible.”

The Hinsdale resident opened the O’Brien School for the Massai in Tanzania a few years ago completely funded by donations. O’Brien said it’s the generosity and caring of others that she will once again turn to when it comes to donating a container of supplies, which includes oatmeal, shoes, school supplies and even a playground.

“In seven years we’ve built a school in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by huts, cows and goats that’s the number two school in the district,” she said. “It’s all from recycled things from the area.”

Community Consolidated School District 181 also got in on the action as each school collected oatmeal. O’Brien said one box of Costco oatmeal that costs $7 feeds 110 children at the school breakfast. Three boxes costing less than $25 feeds the entire school breakfast.

“Our goal is to have enough oatmeal for breakfast for one whole year, so we need 550 boxes,” she said.

The container of donations were set to arrive at O’Brien’s house before being shipped out to Tanzania to arrive sometime in January. O’Brien said the reason for oatmeal is because it’s nonperishable, can make the three-month journey, can be stored safely and is nutritional. Her goal was also to have 3,000 pairs of shoes as each student and employee gets a new pair.

O’Brien said it’s quite a sight when the container arrives as children are usually running behind the truck carrying the 40-foot container on a flat bed as it’s led into the village. Before O’Brien opens the container, everyone gathers around, prays and shows gratitude for the safe arrival.

“I close the doors in Hinsdale and we opened them in Tanzania,” she said. “It’s probably one of the most extraordinary days of my life every year is when we’re there to open [the container].”

To help raise money for the school, O’Brien also held a raffle at the beginning of October with NBC 5 news anchor Allison Rosati. Rosati said she met O’Brien almost 20 years ago and was amazed by her story with opening a school in Tanzania.

“I kept in touch with Kellie about the school and it’s been amazing to watch the whole community get involved and how it’s something that just keeps growing,” Rosati said. “I think everyone feels a part of this even though it’s so far away.”

First-place winner of the raffle received a $10,000 reward and second prize won $1,000. Profit from the raffle will now go toward getting the school a second vehicle, preferably one that can handle a rainy season if encountered, O’Brien said.

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