Not only does the Rahlan-Ksor family have a new place to call home courtesy of Habitat For Humanity of Matthews, but all six kids now have the resources they need to succeed thanks to Charlotte-based Promising Pages.
The two organizations have partnered to ensure local families in need are not only receiving adequate and sustainable housing, but have a full bookshelf to help satisfy their need for adventure and learning without ever leaving their new home.
Kristina Cruise, executive director of Promising Pages, started the organization in 2011 to help place books in the hands of an estimated 60,000 children in the greater Charlotte-area who do not have books to call their own. Now almost two years later, the organization has 10 drop-off locations throughout the Charlotte area, from Ballantyne to Cornelius. And now, with the help of Habitat Matthews, Promising Pages is working to put books in the hands of Matthews’ students.
“I was asked to speak at a Matthews Rotary event several months ago,” Cruise said. “Afterward, I spoke to Terrell Blackmon about Promising Pages and I said, ‘I would love to put a bookshelf full of books at all of your homes.” Blackmon is the executive director of Habitat Matthews.
Blackmon agreed the idea was a perfect partnership, and on Friday, Oct. 26, a Habitat house dedication service was held at 362 Crestdale Road for the Rahlan-Ksor family, who fled their Vietnamese home as political refugees four and half years ago and were offered asylum in the United States. At the dedication, the kids, ranging from age 2 to 16, were surprised to walk into their new home to see an entire bookshelf of about 135 books, plus three books wrapped and labeled for each of them as gifts of their own.
“We want all kids to have access to books in their home so they are constantly working to be the best men and women they can be,” Cruise said. “With Habitat in general, one of the best things about their childhood could be the bookshelf at the end of the hallway or falling asleep every night with a book in their hand. I want ever kid to have that childhood experience.”
Sandrine Uwera, an intern at Promising Pages, helped manage the new program, handpicking books for each of the five girls and two-year-old boy. Habitat Matthews builds four to six houses each year. Cruise said Promising Pages will provide a bookshelf with any number of books, depending on the size of the family, for each of the homes, reviewing the composition, age and gender of each child.
For Blackmon, he says the partnership with Promising Pages and Habitat Matthews is a great connection, adding “books and reading and education and tying that into the families we are providing homes for – it just seemed like an easy connection to make,” he said.
“I love the concept that Kristina has of the feeling of Christmas,” Blackmon said. “You get to open up the package and you get a brand new book that’s yours. I think the cutest thing I saw was one of the younger girls take her books back to what is going to be her bedroom.”
For the Rahlan-Ksor family, English is their second language so books have played an essential role in helping them learn English.
“When I was in third grade, my teacher gave me a picture book. That really helped at first,” Mint Hill Middle eighth-grader Hmy Ksor said, adding she’s excited to have more books in the home to help her and her siblings learn even more.
As the first Matthews connection for Promising Pages, both Cruise and Blackmon are looking for ways to spread the partnership within the Matthews community, looking to place a drop-off bin at Habitat Matthews’ ReStore located at 136 E. Charles St., Blackmon said.
“This is our first partnership in the Matthews area,” Cruise said. “One of the things we need in Matthews is a drop-off area” where people can donate books. “We have one in Ballantyne, we have one on South Boulevard, we have one in Lake Norman. Maybe out of this, we’ll get a Matthews drop-off location. I know it will happen, but it just takes time to coordinate.”
Cruise added that she would love to see several drop-off locations in the Matthews area since donating books really is a service project that everyone in the community can be part of.
To find out more about Promising Pages and how to donate, visit www.promisingpages.com.