Article published Feb 22, 2008

Local chess club goes international

Group leads push to send sets to small Belize town

PORTSMOUTH — Early Saturday morning Steve Schulten will board a plane bound for Belize and in addition to his own personal luggage, he’ll be carrying 100 chess sets to donate to faraway schools.

With the help of the Little Harbour School community and the Portsmouth Rotary, the physical education teacher and Chess Club coach will be a chess ambassador to a small town called Independence, which is nestled on the coast of the Central American country.

“My dream was to go to Belize and bring equipment down there that I could leave so the children in Belize could use,” said Schulten.

“They’re really hurting for equipment.”Schulten will be one of 29 people traveling to the country thanks to a cross-cultural education exchange between teachers from both countries. It is sponsored by the University of New Hampshire.

According to Schulten, Independence is located in the coastal district of Stann Creek and has only 13 chess sets throughout the entire region. Part of his goal in visiting the area is to introduce the game to the children but also to educate fellow teachers on the type of alternatives chess provides to their students.

“We’re trying to get children something to do and keep off streets,” said Schulten.

Schulten said that several parents of students helped chip in for the purchase of the sets and because of their donations the students can have their e-mail addresses written on the back of the donated sets in order to create a “cross-cultural connection.”

He also applauded the generosity of the local Rotary for offering nearly $1,000 in aid for the purchase of the sets.”I asked for $500 and they offered me $1,000.” he said.

In addition to the sets, Schulten said he also received a good deal from G. Willikers for the purchase of 20 instructional books which will also accompany him on his trip.

On Thursday, Schulten along with 27 students from Little Harbour gathered for their weekly Chess Club meeting in the school amphitheater.

Having been the coach of the club for nearly 11 years, Schulten said he’s seen the popularity of the game grow exponentially and the number of students attending has also grown from three to nearly 45 students throughout his tenure.

Fifth-grader Augustus Gilchrist, 10, was one of several Chess Club members who helped donate to the cause and said that he’s personally excited at the idea of being able to correspond with children from another country.

“That would be really cool,” said Gilchrist at the idea of making an international friend.With the popularity of the game growing throughout the Port City and the recent distribution of chess sets to all city fourth-graders, Schulten hopes his trip will shed light on the board game and in turn create long-lasting friendships.

“It’s a cool situation when people are willing to support something like this,” he said.


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