With $15,000 raised -150% of our goal- we have successfully wrapped up our first formal fundraising campaign thanks to our backers’ generosity and belief in “From Jersey, With Love.”
By donating, our backers become a part of the story because this film will help Tomaro ensure it’s place on the world map.
Thanks to our backers, our June trip is now covered.
However, we welcome additional funds to increase the overall quality of our production. Further donations may also allow us to leave video equipment with the Tomaro schools. You can still support Tomaro’s story:
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“From Jersey, With Love” is a testament to the worth and evolution of an underserved fishing community in Nigeria, West Africa and tells how a New Jersey schoolteacher was the catalyst for success.
TEANECK, N.J. (04/18/18) — In 2014, a New Jersey teacher built the first secondary schools on a small island fishing village off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria in West Africa.
In June, the first class will graduate and a crew of New Jersey natives are raising funds through Kickstarter to complete their film about the inspiring students of the Tomaro-Onisiwo Island and the teacher who built their school.
“It’s only a stone’s throw from Africa’s largest metropolitan hub, but Tomaro lacks basic infrastructure like running water and electricity,” said filmmaker Kimberly Cecchini of Englewood, N.J. “The island is home to a diverse community of hardworking fishermen and traders that most Nigerians ignore.”
Until recently, children’s education on Tomaro has been limited to primary school. But in 2008, Teaneck, N.J. school teacher Dena Grushkin helped the people of Tomaro fulfill their desire to build a secondary school through The Nigerian School Project, a nonprofit organization she founded to support teachers and students in Nigeria.
Today the middle and high schools she helped build are a source of pride for the island and now the Lagos Ministry of Education sees them in a new light. The goal was to build eight classrooms. Though the project has evolved into two schools, the greater result may be that the people of Tomaro have finally earned the attention, respect and investment of the state of Lagos.
Before the schools were built, “many of our children would have become traders like us. Now, our children can become lawyers, doctors and even the president of this country,” said Alhaji Sulaimon Aliu, the baale (leader) of Tomaro.
“Two years ago we started filming a documentary about the schools and their impact on the community,” Cecchini said, who is also a teacher in the Teaneck School District. “After a decade of Dena’s service on the island, Tomaro will celebrate its first high school graduation, with The Class of 2018. This year, the students, the island and Dena start their next chapter and our film will document where they have come from and more importantly where they now can go.”
Because The Nigerian School Project is a labor of love, Cecchini said she named the film “From Jersey, With Love.” The film, she says, will be Tomaro’s own testament to its worth, its evolution and its place on the world map. She also hopes it will serve as a tool the islanders can leverage to gain public and private interest.
“The King asked me to help them to build a middle school and a high school because there were none,” said Grushkin. “He didn’t really say much to me. He asked simply and in that moment I was so honored by his request I said ‘yes.’ That man stood guard every day as that school was being built. His love for his children and the pride he felt was my inspiration. Being of service is a wonderful thing. But, as important as the gifts that you give are the gifts you receive. Because of Nigeria, I am a better mother, teacher and citizen of the world. I cannot wait to see what this community does with the tools they have been given. Being a catalyst for that is the greatest gift I’ve been given.”
The Swordspoint Foundation of Connecticut has committed to pay the airfare to get Cecchini’s crew back to Tomaro to film the graduation ceremony this June. Her Kickstarter campaign earned $15,000 – 150% of the initial goal – to cover:
1. Post-production (Editing technicians, rights clearances)
2. Film crew & Equipment (with on-ground production support)
3. Traveling (within Nigeria)
4. Publicity (and marketing)
5. Distribution (including submissions to film festivals)
“‘From Jersey, With Love,’ will show how a seed in the heart of a teacher is transforming the lives of so many people,” Cecchini said.
John Chibuzor of Lagos and Neil Grabowsky of Montclair, New Jersey, are jointly serving as the film’s directors of photography.
Cecchini’s media production company is Tonight at Dawn.
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