The Libby Bus ’07

by Editor on February 13, 2010

December 2, 2007

Venice resident Louise Brunberg, a retired educator who opened a soup kitchen in Nicaragua and expanded it into a school, had been struggling for years to find a way to finance a school bus. If the children of Nagarote were going to lift themselves up from poverty through education, they would need reliable transportation to and from “Dreams of Louise” school, named by the community.

Financing the soup kitchen and paying the teachers’ salaries comes mostly from her retirement savings.  She held various fundraisers and created a nonprofit organization — The Right To Learn Inc. — to highlight the children’s needs and solicit aid, but it wasn’t enough.

Then, a gift arrived — a 1994 school van that seats 24 to replace an aging 1983 Isuzu pickup truck.  In the words of the Sarasota mother and teacher who helped make it happen, Cathy Wardwell, here is the story of Libby and the Libby Bus.

“Libby was a young, happy girl from the United States. When she was about 7 or 8 years old, she decided that she wanted to help other children in far away places. She wanted other children to enjoy some of the privileges that she enjoyed, such as a good school, clothes to wear and a safe home.

“Libby and her sister Emily decided that they would no longer accept gifts for themselves. Instead, they gave money to needy children.

“When Libby was 15 years old, she died unexpectedly. Her family and friends established The Libby Fund, which keeps Libby’s spirit alive by helping other children in need. On the day of Libby’s 16th birthday, Libby’s family and friends held a special celebration.

“They sent messages to Libby on 1,000 helium-filled balloons and raised money to honor her. They now needed to determine how to use the money they raised.

“When Libby’s mother heard about Louise’s school in Nagarote, Nicaragua, Angel Libby whispered to her mother, ‘Buy the bus … tell Louise to paint it baby blue, the color of my eyes, and ask her to name it the Libby Bus. That way I can help children every day by safely taking them back and forth to school. I will stay alive in your heart because you know I am doing something helpful for children in Nagarote.’ ”

More than a bus
To Brunberg, the gift has meant much more than just the bus. It’s opened up opportunities and new worlds in unexpected ways.

“The shopping for a better bus had been on the agenda for a long time,” Brunberg said. “We are very lucky to have this bus and we owe a lot of thanks to the family of Libby for their generosity. The students now look forward to their school bus ride, and people in town eye this beautiful bus with admiration.”

The bus is reliable transportation for bulk food donations that previously might have been discarded. The Libby Bus also takes sick villagers and children to clinics or hospitals in the capitol city of Managua.

“The bus is able to offer the same service for teachers, often mothers of small children who live in areas around Nagarote that are too dangerous or distant to walk every day,” Wardwell said.

“The Libby Bus is reliable enough to give these mothers — who have no other option for supporting their families — an opportunity for training and employment. Many lives have been blessed with the vision and gifts of Louise Brunberg. They are genuinely thankful for the giving that Louise has showered on Nagarote to create a better life for the generations through nutrition, education and a promise of a better life.”

If you’re unsure how you can help, but want to get involved, visit the Friendship Volunteer Center at friendshipvolunteer.com or call (941) 953-5965.

Get involved … and make a difference.

Copyright (c) 2007, Venice Gondolier Sun

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