By Ellen Fix
How do you run a school with no teachers, no books and no building?
To borrow lyrics from a well-known Beatles tune, you do it “with a little help from my friends.”
One of those friends is Brookhaven resident Valerie Rempe.
A development director for Cultural Care Au Pair, an intercultural childcare provider headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., Rempe and her colleagues helped raise $20,000 to replenish the library at St. Mary’s Academy in New Orleans. Four years since Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans, St. Mary’s Academy is still desperately in need of resources as it continues to recover from the storm. But thanks to Cultural Care Au Pair’s philanthropic program, Kids First, several-hundred elementary-age students will now be able to enliven their literary skills by checking out books from a brand new, fresh-out-of-the box collection.
In October, Valerie joined 100 other Cultural Care Au Pair volunteers to prepare the library to receive the new collection. Shelves were shored up and books that had sat in boxes for months were unpacked, labeled and bar-coded. Rempe and the rest of the Kids First team also decorated the library with framed posters, arranged a cozy corner and read their favorite stories to the students. The students also received a handful of donated personal computers.
“Any time an adult can share in a joy with a child, the joy comes back 100 times to the adult,” Rempe said. “I think Kids First is an amazing organization and I am honored to be part of it.”
Rempe and her husband Bill have regularly sponsored community-wide Kids First fundraisers since she began working for Cultural Care Au Pair in 2000. (The company donates matching funds for every local dollar raised.) She took a position there after she began “hosting” au pairs shortly after her two daughters, Amelia (now 10) and Anneliese (now 8) were born.
“We are big on traveling abroad and my husband’s family lives in Italy, and we liked the idea of an international cultural experience for our children,” she said.
U.S. State Department regulations limit each au pair’s visit to one year, so the Rempes have welcomed into their home au pairs from many countries. In exchange for a small stipend and room and board, the au pairs provide 40 hours of weekly care. Currently, Cultural Care Au Pair has 8,000 host families throughout the U.S. Some 200 host families reside across metro Atlanta.
About her association with Cultural Care Au Pair, Rempe says, “None of our family could imagine it not being a part of our lives.”
In addition to raising funds for St. Mary’s Academy, Cultural Care Au Pair’s Kids First program has provided support to orphanages in Russia and South Africa and an after-school center in Brazil. For more information on the Kids First program or to find out how you can contribute, visit www.culturalcare.com/aboutus/kidsfirst.