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Eagle Scout project will help students in South Africa

Farmington High School sophomore Zach Jarema collected supplies for a school in Limpopo, South Africa, for his Eagle Scout project. Jarema and his family will be visiting Sekweng Intermediate School during a family trip to South Africa in March. (RiverTown Multimedia photo by Kim Ukura)

Thanks to the work of one local Boy Scout, school supplies collected in the Farmington community will help students across the Atlantic Ocean in South Africa.

For his Eagle Scout project, Farmington High School freshman Zach Jarema organized a school supply drive to benefit a rural school in Limpopo, South Africa, where his family will be visiting in March.

Jarema learned about Sekgweng Intermediate School during the planning process for the family's upcoming trip. Around 100 children in kindergarten through 12th grade attend school at Sekgweng. They're led by just three teachers, and don't have nearly the resources that schools in the United States have, Jarema said.

"They write on cardboard, and don't have any of the technology we have here," he said.

After learning about the school and its needs, Jarema decided to organize a school supply drive, going door to door with the help of Boy Scouts in Troop 116 in three Farmington neighborhoods to collect school supplies, games and sporting equipment that his family could bring to the students in South Africa.

Jarema organized the school supply drive in two waves. In the first wave, Jarema and about 13 members of his troop dropped off paper grocery bags donated by HyVee, Cub Foods and Target, with a letter explaining the project to around 280 homes near his neighborhood.

About a week later, another group of around 10 Boy Scouts returned to each home to pick up any donations residents could leave out. Jarema and his family also went out to pick up additional donations from neighbors who missed the pickup date or wanted to make additional contributions.

"Some people didn't have their donations yet and wanted to donate, so we gave them a few extra days, then called me specifically for a pick up time," said Jarema.

Jarema said more than 80 percent of the homes he visited made some sort of donation, either school supplies or a cash donation to help with the cost of transportation. The number and volume of donations has almost become overwhelming, taking over the Jarema family's dining room.

Jarema's dad, Rick, said the family is still working out the logistics of how to get the donations to South Africa. They'll be loading up their eight designated suitcases with school supplies, and are currently submitting an application with Delta Airlines to see if they will allow them to purchase more space on the flight. They'll also use some of the cash donations to help with transportation costs.

Rick said that Zach's project is a little unusual for an Eagle Scout project, since it will benefit a community in South Africa rather than within the local community. Jarema said he had to do a little extra work explaining his goal to his troop leaders and Eagle Scout mentors within the district.

The Jarema family will fly to South Africa on March 17. They'll make the trip to Sekgweng early in the trip, where the family will help distribute the donations to students and teachers.