Carmel Valley son and mother seek donations of children’s books to distribute on trip to Rwanda

By Karen Billing
Staff Writer

A Carmel Valley mother and son are looking for children’s books to take with them on their volunteer trip to Rwanda in July. Narayan Gopinathan will be traveling to Rwanda accompanied by his mother Shuva to volunteer at a Rwandan school and they hope to get donations of books for elementary school-age children by July 1.

Shuva said she thinks there are many local families who have books their children have outgrown.
“This is an opportunity to clean out your closet,” Shuva said.

Narayan, who will be a senior this fall at The Bishop’s School, will stay three weeks in Rwanda, one week longer than Shuva, and volunteer his time through the Nziza organization. Nziza is a non-profit founded by American Lori Peacock to promote cross-cultural exchanges between students in the U.S. and students in Rwanda and Southern Uganda.

Narayan learned more about the opportunity to visit Rwanda from his aunt, who works in the capital city of Kigali for the Center for Disease Control.
“I’ve always been interested in Africa and I’m really lucky I get to go this early in life,” Narayan said.

At the school, Narayan will be helping the students with their reading and their English, improving their accents. The school just switched their main language from French to English so they have a great need for English books to integrate into the curriculum.

Mother and son said most people have a misconception about Rwanda that it is a very dangerous country—people are always asking them if they are scared to go there.

Narayan said that the country has progressed since 1994, when genocide resulted in the deaths of an estimated 800,000 people.
“It is a poor country but it is very peaceful now,” Narayan said.

While his focus will be on the school, he and his mother do plan to do at least a little exploring on one weekend and see the gorillas in their natural mountain habitat.

Narayan said he has always been looking for a volunteer project he can be really passionate about and he thinks this one has great potential—he has always enjoyed playing with and tutoring the youngsters in his family.
“Who knows, maybe I’ll get to go back to the school again,” Narayan said.

Just before his trip to Rwanda, Narayan will be attending the week-long Student Climate and Conservation Congress (Sc3) at the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center just outside of Washington DC.

He has a great interest in economic development and environmental issues and wants to learn more. He believes that poverty can be solved but said he worries that it may come with a larger cost.
“People might not really be able to do development to lift people out of poverty without harming the environment,” Narayan said.

He is starting early on his education on important issues and policies and taking on volunteer opportunities to help create a better future.
To donate books and schedule a pick-up, e-mail For more information on Nziza, visit or e-mail Lori Peacock at

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Posted by Lorine Wright on Jun 22, 2011. Filed under Carmel Valley, Del Mar, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “Carmel Valley son and mother seek donations of children’s books to distribute on trip to Rwanda”

  1. Barbara Peacock

    As the Mother of Lori Peacock, I am proud to say she has inspired me to achieve one of my life's dreams, tracking the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. We learned, by local observation, more about education in Rwanda and Southern Uganda and founded Nziza. What a thrill to meet educators, students and citizens who believe education is the key to a healthy, strong society and country. Shuva and Narayan, I wish you well during your travels and work in Rwanda and Uganda. We look forward to your report upon return.

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