Schools: Namungoona Primary, Bat Valley Primary, Mengo Secondary School, St. Mary Kevin’s Orphans School
Libraries: Namungoona Laurel Library, Bat Valley Laurel Library, Mengo Secondary Laurel, St. Mary Kevin’s Laurel Library
Students Served: 4,600
What can volunteers from three states, some of whom have never even met each other, accomplish in just two weeks? They can enrich the lives of more than 9,000 Ugandan children. And, that’s just what 19 Libraries of Love volunteers did the first two weeks of June 2007 – completing five new projects and working with libraries created in 2005 and 2006.
Traveling from Texas, Kansas and Illinois, the group met in London. They spent the day getting acquainted and seeing the sights. Then, it was on to Uganda to get down to some hard but rewarding work. Despite the very long flight, irritating airline delays and lost luggage, the group “hit the ground running” the first day in Kampala and began the task of creating libraries in three primary schools, and providing books to a secondary school and an orphanage.
Working immediately as a team, the three groups became one and the libraries took shape with the help of Ugandan students, teachers and volunteers. The enthusiastic reception for the team began at the first school, Bat Valley Primary, as described by Libraries of Love Executive Director Trudy Marshall:
“Monday, as soon as we arrived we went to Bat Valley School – 1,500 students. The kids were all outside waiting for us doing African dances, singing, playing bongo drums, shouting, jumping, waving, totally excited. After a greeting, we immediately went to work,” she wrote in a travel blog that chronicled the entire African experience.
The school had gone to our website and found the names of donors.
“They then labeled each of their classroom doors with a donor’s name, whether it was an individual, company, civic organization, or church. It is quite a sight,” she wrote in the blog.
“Mengo Secondary already had bookshelves, so we just had to sort the books. That may sound easy, but try sorting approximately 16,000 books in three days at four libraries and putting them in correct Dewey Decimal order. It is a major happening. The 2,300 students at Mengo have never checked out books. They do have some terribly old books in the back of the library. The teacher assigns a book; the librarian retrieves it and then writes the students name down so he/she can take the book for one day. The Headmaster asked, ‘How can you let go of something that is so precious?’ So, any books they have are collecting dust, as they are so valuable.”
But after fiction and nonfiction books were added to the textbooks in the Mengo library and Trudy worked with teachers and administrators, the headmaster told the library staff that a room would be coverted into a separate library for the books we provided.
“I was thrilled,” Trudy wrote. “As I mentioned previously, the ‘library’ they are using is so packed with students studying, it is almost impossible for students to browse the library books.”
At Namungoona Primary School the student body of 450 lined up outside when the Libraries of Love team arrived.
“There were so many kids without shoes and huge holes in their clothes, we were all a bit sad,” the blog entry reads. “They were playing soccer with a little rubber ball and mud bricks for goals. Dave sat under a tree and read ‘Sam I Am’ circled by a huge crowd of children. Donita started playing Chinese jump rope with some girls, and the other ladies and students joined in. Several of the Kansas group are outstanding soccer players – not as good as the students – but good.”
The team arrived at St. Mary Kevin’s Orphan School late in the evening. The library is in a boxcar with no electricity.
“We used the generator to light the room. However, the mosquitoes were everywhere. This is a smaller school with 350 students. In forty-five minutes, we put together a library of about 1,600 books. The group was like a giant, well-oiled machine, as this was our fourth library in three days. We did take time to visit the dormitories. We thought they couldn’t be any poorer than those at Namungoona, but there aren’t words to express the ‘sights’ at this school. Beautiful children without parents in the poorest of conditions.”
The final team visit was to Besania Orphanage, which is operated by retired Anglican Archbishop Livingstone Nkoyoyo in Mukono.
“He has about 80 children, with 15 of those being blind. The blind children were all really young and so precious. They all sang for us and we returned the favor. They enjoyed a few tunes on my accordion as we sang. Paul had a young boy name Junior following him everywhere and holding tight to his hand. We started calling Paul daddy. He was the cutest little boy,” Trudy blogged. “We had tea and cake at the Archbishop and Ruth’s home. They also surprised us with a large dinner at the orphanage.”