Vineyarders have been supporting the educations of former child laborers and orphans in Kenya since Galen Films first showed their child labor documentary, Stolen Childhoods, here in 2002. One village’s children, whose lives were being drained away through endless hours of work in the coffee fields, were put in school for a year by the filmmakers. Since then, many Islanders have joined them in continuing to help with school fees as the kids have succeeded in school beyond everyone’s expectations.

Fundraisers called harambees have been going on over years at the Chilmark Community Center, and Kenyan schools, with income-generating projects of their own, have almost doubled what Islanders send. Galen Films’ Len Morris explains: “They make honey, raise grasses and corn and beans and sell them to add to our fund-raising. But severe drought this year has killed of many crops.”

Many of the children are now in boarding high schools, as they cannot attend school and do homework in their villages without electric light by which to study, without nourishing food and with the demands of poverty all around them; boarding schools are of course more expensive.

On Saturday, Oct. 17, Anna Edey’s Persian Tribal Rug Gallery will collaborate with Galen Films’ Kenyan Education Fund (held by Edgartown National Bank), with a benefit sale to raise money for the educations of these orphans and former child laborers.

“Anna Edey approached us to help with a benefit sale of child labor-free tribal Persian rugs, with 20 per cent of profits going to the kids. What a beautiful idea, to buy a thing of unique beauty, each one hand-dyed and woven with a character of its own, just like each one of the kids. We have followed these kids for years now, and they are so aware of the opportunity they are being given, knowing an education can change everything in their lives, that they are succeeding beyond their own imaginings.”

Saturday, Oct. 17, is an open house reception at the Tribal Rugs Gallery, 18 State Road in Vineyard Haven from 1 to 6 p.m. to view the rugs and catch up on the kids’ progress. The benefit sale continues all week at the gallery, Oct. 17 to 23.

To sponsor a child or for more information about the coffee kids, call Galen Films at 508-693-0752.