What do you do when your wedding in Sicily — in the church where your father was christened — has to be canceled due to the coronavirus?
If you’re Angela Stornaiuolo, a physical education teacher at PS 102 in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, you decide to “take an epic honeymoon to Tanzania,” even before the wedding can be rescheduled.
She was looking forward to a safari in Serengeti National Park and some beach time in Zanzibar during the 2021 February break, but, as a nine-year chapter leader, Stornaiuolo also wanted to help the schoolchildren of the country she would be visiting.
With the support of friends and family, she raised money to purchase a cornucopia of school supplies — books, art supplies, balls and air pumps, flash cards, games and more — enough to fill two giant 48-pound duffel bags, which she and her fiance lugged to the airport.
Their tour guide in Tanzania connected her with two schools for her donations. The first, Njiapanda Primary School, in the Karatu province, is a government or public school with nine teachers and 698 students. “So about 80 students per classroom,” Stornaiuolo said. “The students were so welcoming, as were the teachers and principal. The students performed a song for us. You could see the joy radiating from their faces.”
There were no posters on the classroom walls and few books in the library. “These kids walk two to three miles to get to their school,” she said. “It gives you perspective on what we have here and what we take for granted, in comparison with the very little they have.”
The couple next visited a school for the young children of the local tribe, the Maasai, in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The Maasai are seminomadic and have their own schools for 3- to 5-year-olds. Those children who opt to continue will then attend a government school.
Stornaiuolo says she hopes to connect her Brooklyn students with the students in Tanzania.
“I guess it’s the teacher in me,” she said, of using her honeymoon to support education. “When I learned how many schools in Tanzania lack basic school supplies, how could I not do something to help, even if on a small scale?”