CHARLESTON — Teaching is not only a passion for Eastern Illinois University student Kaj Holm, it’s a way to give back to others.
Holm, a senior elementary education major at Eastern, spent eight days on Andros Island in the Bahamas this summer as part of a faculty led study abroad trip.
Out of those eight days, two of them were spent teaching students at Fresh Creek Primary School.
Holm taught a third grade class and said he was blown away by how willing the students were to learn.
“The student’s thirst for knowledge was nothing like I have ever seen in a school system,” Holm said. “They accepted and appreciated it and hung on to every word that came out of our mouths.”
During his few days of teaching in the Bahamas, Holm said he was so inspired that he wanted to help out the school in anyway he could.
Seventeen Eastern students went on the study abroad trip to the Bahamas, and Holm said a majority of his fellow students left their school supplies for the students of Fresh Creek Primary School.
“Teachers there have little or no resources and have to buy their own supplies for their students,” he said.
Holm said he noticed how bad the conditions of the school were, so once he got back to the United States Holm started small with his donation efforts.
Holm noticed the teacher was sharpening pencils with a hand held sharpener, so he wanted to help by sending her an industrial pencil sharpener that would make her task easier.
According to Holm he sent enough industrial pencil sharpeners to the school to serve eight classrooms and his work just grew from there.
Holm’s efforts soon evolved into an internet fund to collect donations and money for school supplies for the students at Fresh Creek Primary School.
The internet fund grew thanks to family, friends, Eastern faculty and word of mouth.
“I was able to send 40 boxes of supplies and resources for the whole school,” Holm said.
Since funding efforts started this summer, Holm said he has raised $1,700 in money and supplies for the school.
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“I decided that I wanted to make a difference and even though I was there for a short period of time I still felt like I was making a difference,” Holm said. “I wanted to make sure they had the best education possible.”
Holm said he would wait for big sales on school supplies and then would ship them out in bulk.
So far Holm has shipped out one bulk package of school supplies and is already collecting more money and supplies to send another package.
Holm said he hopes to expand the foundation and plans on continuing his efforts for the school as long as it’s needed.
“I’m just here to help others and make an impact on their lives,” he said.
In addition to teaching in the Bahamas during his study abroad trip, Holm was also enrolled in a science course were he learned about marine biology and got to go snorkeling and kayaking.
Studying abroad was something Holm said he had always wanted to do and thought it would help him become a better teacher.
“In my head I have this idea that in order to be the best teacher you need to have a wide variety of experiences, so I wanted to do that and to step out of the box,” he said.
Holm said the best part of his study abroad trip was teaching.
“I would trade everything to go back there and teach again,” he said.
Getting the opportunity to teach in the Bahamas was something that Holm said he feels very privileged to have done.
“After teaching in the Bahamas I have a new appreciation for a student’s desire to learn,” he said.
The next step for Holm is teaching in India and he said once he graduates he hopes to teach either second or third grade students in Florida or Texas.
Holm said money and supply donations are still welcome and needed for Fresh Creek Primary School.
To donate to go to Holm’s fundraising website at www.gofundme.com/kajholm
Contact Bilharz at email@example.com or 217-238-6839.