Whitman student helps ice cream truck owner organize backpack drive


Donated backpacks lay in Whitman’s front entrance. Senior Sarah Bruegmann helped ice cream truck driver AJ Jalloh with a project sending backpacks to children in Sierra Leone. Photo by Sydney Miller.

By Sydney Miller

Senior Sarah Bruegmann and ice cream truck owner AJ Jalloh have collected backpacks to donate to schoolchildren in Koidu Town, Sierra Leone, Jalloh’s hometown, since May 18. The team will collect backpacks until the last week of school.

Bruegmann and Jalloh have collected 20 backpacks so far but hope to collect many more, Bruegmann said.

Jalloh’s father built a small school in Sierra Leone in 1974. During Jalloh’s October visit to the school, the poor conditions he witnessed inspired him to collect backpacks for the students there.

“The kids there are suffering,” Jalloh said. “They don’t have backpacks, they carry their books all day. These backpacks will be a good help, a really good help.”

Jalloh asked Bruegmann about starting the project while she was buying ice cream in the Whitman parking lot during lunch one day. After organizing the details with principal Alan Goodwin, Bruegmann hung flyers around the school and placed a collection box outside the main office.

Freshman Isabel Hoffman donated a backpack, saying she admires the way Bruegmann and Jalloh worked together to coordinate the project.

“It’s always really great to hear about students connecting with other people in our community whose stories and backgrounds we might never know if not for people like [Bruegmann] who get involved,” Hoffman said.

Although Bruegmann hasn’t visited Koidu Town, she sees the value in Jalloh’s mission and happily helped to gather backpacks, she said.

“It’s important to collect these because the children there are much less fortunate than us,” Bruegmann said. “If we have the possibility of helping them out with something as simple as an old backpack donation, we should do it without hesitation.”