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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey

Life as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa: We Built a Library

May 31, 2014 01:05PM
Dusty storage closet filled with books, no more! Nearly a year ago, I began the process of applying for a US AID literacy grant, and thanks to the hard work of all parties involved, Naama Secondary finally has its very first library!

It’s a relatively basic structure, furnished with simple tables, benches, and shelves, but it’s an improvement from keeping books locked up and out of sight, and forcing students to sit on the ground in the hot sun to study. Hopefully secondary benefits of the space will include students opting to spend extra time at school, teachers making themselves more available to students, and a rise in reading culture (which doesn’t really exist here).

The interior needs some sprucing up: I’m still looking to collect and make a bunch of posters, and test my artistic skills by painting a big mural on one wall. That’s my project for June; hopefully it isn’t a complete disaster! I’m envisioning a colourful world map with my favorite reading quote painted around the outside: “Books have to be heavy because the whole world’s inside them.”

I’m also fundraising with a few other Peace Corps Volunteers to get a huge book shipment from a US-based organization called Books for Africa. If we can get that money together, my school alone will be receiving over 900 books. We’re thrilled about this because, first of all, you can never have too many books, but also because most of what we have right now is outdated textbooks published in East Africa. This means that (a) they are riddled with errors and biases, (b) we can offer very little in the way of diversity or choice, and (c) there is literally nothing around for kids to read for fun. Just think, what would your childhood be without evenings spent under the covers with a flashlight and Nancy Drew or Goosebumps or Little House on the Prairie?

This project, like everything in Uganda, is a work in progress. Right now I’m grateful for the small victory of having the library built, open, and functioning. Thanks for reading!

Please visit to see pictures of the library, or to donate to the cause.

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