Volunteers pack annual shipment for Kenya

Jacob Hultgren, 7, of Storrs, grandson of AFK board member Debra Hultgren, carries boxes filled with teddy bears at Otis Library in Norwich on Saturday.
Jacob Hultgren, 7, of Storrs, grandson of AFK board member Debra Hultgren, carries boxes filled with teddy bears at Otis Library in Norwich on Saturday. Dana Jensen/The Day

Norwich — Volunteers with the humanitarian organization American Friends of Kenya spent Saturday morning at Otis Library packing up the latest once-a-year shipment of books, equipment and supplies to be sent to Kenya.

This year, the shipment includes hundreds of teddy bears donated to children in Newtown in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

When Newtown resident Peter Sepe, one of AFK's founding members, saw the teddy bears piling up at Newtown's Town Hall, he suggested some be shipped to Kenya, where toys are a luxury, said Emely Silver, AFK's executive director. Newtown officials readily obliged.

Saturday's shipment also included some 35,000 books, school and medical supplies - and baseball equipment.

"We're sending massive amounts of bats and baseballs," Silver said, with a contingent of Norwich Little League officials and coaches to follow. They'll be among the more than 20 AFK volunteers scheduled to travel to Kenya in July to make sure the shipped items are in place.

Also included in the shipment were beauty-salon equipment and supplies and wheelchair-type devices designed for terrain that's inaccessible to regular wheelchairs. Ten of the devices - six for adults and four for children - were donated by PET International, another nonprofit.

Jimmy Nderitu, AFK's contact in Kenya, had traveled to the United States to help prepare the shipment and will return to Kenya to manage its arrival.

New Orleans-based Missionary Expediters provided the 40-foot-high container that AFK volunteers filled with the help of a forklift. The shipment was trucked to Boston, where it was to continue by barge to Kenya, a trip Silver said would take five to six weeks.

"As soon as this shipment is out, we start collecting for the next one," she said.

- Brian Hallenbeck

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