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Project Butterfly: Bishop’s School students help collect enough books to start two libraries in Africa

Members of local service club Project Butterfly show boxes of books they collected that helped start two libraries in Africa.
(Christine Li Gao)

A public service club including students from The Bishop’s School in La Jolla has completed a project that helped start two libraries in Africa.

Project Butterfly partnered with the African Library Project, a nonprofit that starts libraries in rural Africa, on a book drive and collected more than 1,800 children’s books and raised $700 in donations from Oct. 16 to Nov. 23.

Eighteen of the club’s members worked on the project, and the number of books collected meant two libraries could be built — an early-childhood library at Enjuba ECD Lab School in Uganda and a kindergarten through eighth grade library in Kenya.

Bishop’s School students Katherine Ge and Ryan Qin have been members of Project Butterfly since it began. Katherine, who is a sophomore, and Ruby Gao, currently a sophomore at Canyon Crest Academy in Carmel Valley, formed the club in fall 2019, and it has grown to include 40 volunteers from 10 area schools, from elementary through high school.

Ryan, who is a freshman, said he thought the book drive “was a really cool idea. I thought it was really cool that we were really able to make such a huge impact.”

This is the third book drive Project Butterfly has organized; the first two were for needy children in Linda Vista and a library at the San Diego Family Circle Adult Day Health Center.

Katherine Ge, a sophomore at The Bishop's School in La Jolla, is one of Project Butterfly's founders.
(Christine Li Gao)

Katherine said the club — named for the butterfly effect, in which small changes have a larger impact — also has donated to the Alpha Project for homeless people.

“We’ve also done performances at Balboa Park … and donated to small businesses, police stations and hospitals,” she said.

Ruby said Project Butterfly began with a focus on “the older generation of the community” through monthly performances at a local senior center (that continue virtually). But during the COVID-19 pandemic, the club shifted to focus on younger people as well.

The club has connected with a middle school in the Shanxi province in China to provide tutoring in English to about 340 Chinese students, mostly seventh-graders, Katherine said.

Ruby said her mother is from the Shanxi province and said: “I heard a lot of childhood stories about how she was trying to get an education but there weren’t enough resources. And how when she came to America, her English wasn’t [strong] enough to communicate with the locals.”

Ruby said she and other club members thought teaching Chinese students English might affect the future.

David Lai, a Bishop’s freshman, said that through tutoring, “I get to see those kids grow every day.”

“Most kids aren’t as fortunate to get as good of an education in multiple languages,” he said. “It’s kind of nice that we’d be able to teach them English where they won’t be able to” otherwise.

Ryan said “doing all this service has really allowed me to connect with people who have experiences completely different to me. And it helps me see the world from a lot of other people’s eyes.”

Through Project Butterfly, he said, he’s learned “it’s really important to help out those who don’t have the same luxuries that we do.”

Katherine said the club has demonstrated “great teamwork and community effort.”

She hopes to repeat the book drive this year. As for other service endeavors, “we have a lot of ideas,” she said.

For more information about Project Butterfly, email projectbutterflyca@gmail.com.