Reflection: Where we’ve been, where we have yet to go

A picture of all the school supplies I have received thus far through efforts at the Kumon of Brandon East Learning Center (Photo by Justin Doromal)

Collectively, we are making pretty good progress on our project goal of 120 boxes. We have received many positive responses from various members of the Tampa Bay community, some having even pledged or donated supplies already. Last week, our class’s project was featured on Tampa Bay’s Fox 13 News, and this past Monday our class spoke on various radio shows including WTBN. These past few weeks have only exemplified a point that radio show host Shayna Lance made, that the Tampa Bay community is a very generous and giving community.

Now, with a third of the semester gone and only two more months until its close, the time has come to address several observations I have made in my experiences thus far. I will first talk about the supplies drive I have started on my own at the Kumon of Brandon East Learning Center (an important note to mention, the drop-off box is located in the lobby area, but the center itself is only open Monday through Wednesday – the drop-off box was intended for students and parents of Kumon, but anyone living in the Brandon area is more than welcome to drop off their donations there also; if the center’s hours are not compatible with your schedule, by all means contact me and we’ll make arrangements). So far I have collected quite a handful – or more accurately, a trunk-full – of supplies, and though this may seem like good news, in truth the large number of donations have only come from several people; I was perhaps most surprised with the mother who handed me all of her daughter’s old backpacks (four of them) that she didn’t want to use anymore.

I suppose, then, that the success of my drop-off box is slightly deceiving. While in fact I have received plenty of donations, I actually haven’t reached out to everyone I would have liked. I suppose in some sense, large blessings in small numbers can be more favorable than small blessings in many numbers, but for the purposes of our class, have I really reached out to the community at all? It’s a bit disheartening to see the letters explaining our project’s cause still in some of the students’ binders and bags, letters that were meant to be sent home to parents last week. Sure, it’s only been a little more than a week since the creation of the drop-off box, and I suppose most good things come to those who wait patiently; but I am also worried that the number of donations will lessen as the upcoming weeks pass. Perhaps it is merely a hope at best, but if only my cause would reach the hearts of a few more parents, even if the number of items they donate is significantly less than those who have already donated, I would be more steps closer to seeing our project goals realized.

A picture of the boxes used to ship school supplies. It only takes $12.95 to ship one of these boxes. (Photo by Liisa Temple)

While on the subject of my efforts through the Kumon of Brandon East Learning Center, I have also observed that collecting school supplies from members of the community is a much easier task than asking people to sponsor the shipping of a box. Members of the Greater Tampa Bay area are giving, indeed, but not everyone has everything to give away.

Used school supplies seldom used? – Yes, we can spare those.
Sponsoring a $12.95 box to ship the supplies to Afghanistan? – That involves money, which we could be spending on this week’s groceries.

For the average Tampa Bay family, money and unused school supplies hold different value. We can spend money anywhere and everywhere, thus making it a much harder resource to let go of. Rarely do we say “I seldom use this money.” In the case of the average family, which is always spending and consuming for various needs, money is a touchy item to ask for. In relation to my school supplies drive, though I might be able to collect heaps of school supplies from generous families, I will need to think of ways to raise the money in order to ship them.

Melody Geiger, the 8-year-old girl who collected four large Xerox boxes of supplies through her own efforts in Pinellas County, being interviewed on the radio. (Photo by Liisa Temple)

I have also noticed that children tend to have open and giving hearts. This isn’t to say that adults are selfish and inconsiderate of others. Perhaps it’s because children are free from most of the worries that we as adults bear. While they don’t always have the tools to see action through, they still gladly take up to anything that seems like a “good idea” in their eyes. Their enthusiasm is their main drive. Here I speak mostly about the kids I deal with at work, but this most certainly applies to Melody Geiger, the 8-year-old girl we met at the radio station this Monday, who through her own efforts collected four boxes full of supplies. In ways, it makes me feel ashamed; as an eight-year-old boy, the only thing I concerned myself with was training my Tentacruel to Level 100 and battling MissingNo until I had inumerable quantities of Rare Candies.

A picture of Tentacruel, a Pokemon from my childhood craze. Photo courtesy of Nintendo

My final observation is the means in which we further extend our project to the far corners of our community. Lance gave us many tips on how to get our project out there, most of which being through media and already explained in my classmates’ blogs from earlier this week. Nevertheless, I am definitely beginning to see how this project is going to push me far beyond my comfort zone and previously established limits. I always considered myself socially inept growing up (perhaps the funniest story I can come up with was a time in eighth grade, where I had used a sheet of paper to ask the girl next to me for more sheets of paper, simply because I was too shy to ask in person). Even during my time at USF, I avoided public speaking courses, struggled with presentations to the class, and as a whole avoided stealing the spotlight when I could. My opinion always fell second to my peers’, I gave in too easily, and I rarely persisted with my demands unless they were essential or something I truly wanted.

But Lance makes a very strong point to be persistent, rather, annoyingly persistent; this alone is something I’m not used to. Naturally this doesn’t apply everywhere; if I were annoyingly persistent with the parents of Kumon, I would probably be fired for causing the center to lose some business (or perhaps not, but the risk is one I’m not willing to take). But to reach out to the community through media, I will have to overcome this unfamiliarity of my past. Last year I would never have even dreamed to appear on television or even set foot into a radio broadcast station, and even if I didn’t actually speak in either broadcast I have still managed to do both within the same month. So far this week I have tweeted various figureheads per my professor’s suggestions in an attempt to give our cause some more renown and publicity, having even made submissions to various news sites’ News Tips forms (and yes, I intend on being “annoyingly persistent” with the more non-responses I receive, or perhaps more accurately don’t receive). And surprisingly, I am okay with being forced out of my comfort zone, because as a former classmate previously blogged, we pursue education for the betterment of the self.

We’ve gone quite far in the month that has passed, perhaps further than any of us could have imagined. But looking beyond our efforts and successes, we still have much more to accomplish. It’s not so much being blinded by our successes than simply keeping in mind what we still have yet to see realized before our goal is reached, but I’m sure by using our experiences to guide us through these next through months, we will surely utilize fully our social networks to attain a favorable end result to our project.

For a list of supplies we collect, click here.

Kumon of Brandon East Learning Center is located at:

The segment featuring our radio interview will air on:
Saturday – 7am – WLSS AM 930
Saturday – 7am – WTBN AM 570 & 910
Sunday – 6am – WGUL 860 AM
And also on Podcast at:, and

About Justin Doromal

I am a student at the University of South Florida majoring in Mathematics, with a side interest in educational improvement and pedagogy. I am literate in French, though not necessarily fluent, and in my free time I like indulging in Korean pop music culture.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Awareness campaigns, Partner organizations, Social media, University of South Florida and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Reflection: Where we’ve been, where we have yet to go

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Reflection: Where we’ve been, where we have yet to go | School Supplies for Afghan Children --

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