Principal Jeff Anderchak says Franklin Elementary School's library is the "focal point" of the building.
"One of the things we are most proud of is our library," he said.
"Our kids love going to the library. They look forward to it every day."
So it was fitting, he said, that the students, faculty and parents at the North Allegheny School District elementary school are responsible for students in another part of the world having a library.
The school's 515 students raised $11,600 to build a library for students in the Eluwai Primary School and Noonkodin Secondary School in the village of Eluwai outside of Monduli in Tanzania. The library was dedicated in August, and photos of the library are posted on Franklin Elementary's Web page.
"We know we've got a terrific school with tremendous resource sand tremendous parent support, and sometimes we take that for granted," he said.
"Here we see schools in Tanzania that are vastly different than what we have in Franklin."
The funds were raised for the Kilimanjaro Education Foundation, a 7-year-old nonprofit that strives to improve education and to build school facilities for underprivileged children in Tanzania and other countries bordering Kilimanjaro.
Its founder, Todd Grossman, met with Mr. Anderchak four years ago. The meeting was arranged by Jeff Durosko, a Franklin parent who does pro bono public relations for the foundation.
"My whole premise here is we sort of live in this land of plenty where our kids don't even understand what the rest of the world is like," Mr. Durosko said. "It really showed my kids and their friends what it is like in other parts of the world and showed them how other kids would like to see a library book, a pencil and things that they take for granted."
Mr. Durosko said Mr. Grossman asked the Franklin kids how many had a TV in their house, then two TVs, three, etc.
He then told the students that the village of Eluwai has one television.
"The kids are 'Oh, wow.' They really can't wrap their heads around it," Mr. Durosko said.
Mr. Anderchak said that, after Mr. Grossman described the Kilimanjaro Education Foundation and its mission, he thought, "Wouldn't this be a good project to be involved with?"
He said they originally talked of a timetable of five to seven years to raise the funds, but the school did it in less than four years.
"It was a tremendous accomplishment, and I think really speaks to the generosity and commitment of our school community to the greater good," he said.
Among the fundraisers was an annual basketball game pitting parents against staff, as well as student-led "spirit days," where students paid $1 to wear special clothing, such as hats, crazy socks or ugly sweaters.
The school did other fundraising projects during the four years that the money was being raised for the Kilimanjaro Foundation, including raising $4,900 for Children's Hospital last year.
"We are a relatively small school generating some really nice charity dollars to good programs," Mr. Anderchak said.
"We just have a very generous, supportive community who recognizes that there are people out there."
Mr. Grossman said that when kids help kids, "it makes our work at KEF all that much more gratifying. The students, staff and parents of Franklin Elementary embraced this project and enthusiastically raised funds to make sure that the kids in Tanzania had their library sooner, rather than later."
Mr. Anderchak said the project also showed the students that not everyone is as fortunate as children in North Allegheny.
"We told them, 'You are part of something larger. We've got a great school.
We are fortunate for everything that we have in life. Not everyone is as fortunate as us.
The right thing to do is to get involved and help others,' " he said.
"This makes us part of the global community.
"We may never see that library, but we know the impact that the library will have on children today, tomorrow and forever."
Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.