‘Yearning For Learning’ Initiative Results In Donation For New Classroom
By Michele Wing
Back in January, the OC Posts’ own Mary Hyde set off on an adventure to visit her daughter Katie, a teacher in Namibia. While planning her trip, Mary was asked to bring “a few books” for Katie’s students who have very few resources in their dilapidated mud-hut school building. That request turned into a community-wide effort because of the generosity of our readers and advertisers who wanted to be part of this project. Scores of people donated books, sports equipment and money for the expensive shipping costs. The Orange County Post published several articles and pictures to keep the community informed of the fact that the children were thrilled with all the new gifts from the United States.
The story isn’t quite over though. The most recent update is that through a very generous donation made as an anniversary gift to Dr. Michele Winchester-Vega and her husband Felix by their daughter Natasha, the village that Katie teaches in is able to build a completely brand new school building for Katie’s class. It is nearing completion and soon the students will be able to move into their new classroom with a solid wall and roof. Asked why she felt moved to give further support, Winchester-Vega says, “I grew up in the deep South ( Alabama and Mississippi) and feel incredibly blessed at having been afforded a wonderful education. I actually attended a year in a one room school house where my other five siblings also attended, all of us were in different grades. I was the youngest. I loved teaching over the years at various colleges. JFK said ‘to those who are given much, much is expected’. I believe in education is a way out of poverty and empowering to children.” She adds, “I was so surprised to learn that the new classroom will have our name on it.”
A resident of New Windsor, Dr. Winchester-Vega is known as ‘The Two Million Dollar Woman’ for helping raise over 2 million dollars for various organizations including the Nora Cronin Presentation Academy in Newburgh. She has spent many years on Boards of Directors and volunteering In addition to running the largest outpatient mental health private practice in the area.
In addition, a friend of Dr. Winchester-Vega, Loretta Fleenor, was moved by the story of Katie and her class and donated handmade book marks to the students. Fleenor did so in memory of her daughter, Jennifer, who passed away suddenly not long ago.
The Orange County Post will provide further news about this little village in Africa and the enthusiastic children who continue to have a ‘yearning for learning’.