In 2003, Mark Grashow and Sheri Saltzberg journeyed to Lasuka, Zambia, to attend a friend’s wedding. Following the wedding, they traveled on to Victoria Falls and Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, where their son, Alexander Grashow, had done work for Senergos. In Bulawayo, they met with staff members of the Organization of Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP), Senergos’s partner in Zimbabwe. Mark Grashow had been a high school math teacher in New York City for 34 years before he retired in 2001. Because of his teaching background, Mark and Sheri were taken to visit three rural schools.
The schools had very little. There were no libraries, no textbooks, no school supplies and no sports equipment. Some students lacked shoes and warm clothes for the winter. Back in Brooklyn, Mark’s former school would throw away all its excess library books, textbooks and sports equipment into a dumpster behind the school. Mark also knew that hundreds of schools across New York City were doing the exact same thing. The waste and the discrepancies between the American schools and the African schools were just too much to bear. Mark and Sheri decided to take action.
Upon returning home, Mark and Sheri co-founded the U.S. – Africa Children’s Fellowship (USACF). Their first partnership was with ORAP. In 2003, ORAP had 35 rural schools it was working to support. Mark and Sheri quickly found 35 American schools willing to partner with ORAP’s 35 schools. The American schools agreed to donate their excess textbooks, library books, computers, sports equipment, school supplies, art supplies and blackboards. In addition, their students brought in their own books, toys, school supplies, sports equipment, sneakers, uniforms and toiletries for donation. The first container was shipped in 2005.