Mbale, Uganda – Summer 2006

School: Namatala Primary
Library: Namatala Laurel Library

Students Served: 3,000



The library is indescribable. It is a large room with 8,500 books filling every bit of space on the bookshelves! The shelves wrap around three walls, with the computers across the fourth wall. We had a great time decorating the room with magnificent, huge, canvas wall hangings (posters) that say Reading is Magic, which have pictures of books and “fairy dust.” These are purple, gold, and white. We placed colorful posters showing the various sections of the Dewey Decimal System, as well as cards identifying the sections of the library (easy, fiction, nonfiction, reference)


Hanging at the windows are purple curtains, with matching heavy “plastic” on the floor, which comes in rolls. We were hoping to put in carpet pieces, but many of the children don’t have shoes, so dirt being tracked in will be a big problem. With plastic, the flooring can be mopped. When you walk in, it is breathtaking. It is a modern “American” library, set down in the middle of a third world country! How amazing is that?! One of the speakers mentioned that this is the only library of its kind in all of Uganda, which means, of course, he doesn’t know about Namirembe Laurel Library!

The evening before the opening of the library, our team met in the library with all the Ugandans who had helped build shelves, cooked for us, and sorted books – for our own dedication. It was a special time as we reflected over the last several days. The grand opening was indeed grand! They had a large tent erected for the “honored” guests. They also put up a tent to shield the teachers and pupils as they managed to squeeze together in the shade. Several of our team stayed busy filming and shooting photos. I had the privilege of sitting between two of the men I most admire in Uganda – Wilberforce, and the Archbishop! We had several speakers, and the students did skits about the library, as well as singing songs. Some of the teachers decided to dance with the students, letting out “whoops”! My crazy son-in-law decided to join them and was doing a great job of shaking his bootie to the delight of the entire audience, including the children! It was truly funny!

The highlight was when the Archbishop began speaking. He was in his robe with his official hat perched on his head. The minute he spoke, he was as I remembered at the Martyrs Day Celebration in 2001. Archbishops from all the neighboring countries had shared, but when Archbishop Nkoyoyo started speaking, the whole place came alive! I don’t know how to describe it. He gets this mischievous look on his face, gravitates from being hilarious to serious, and totally holds the audience captive.

He asked Wilber to translate as he spoke, so to watch the two of them together “performing” was a great treat – an awesome experience for all of us! The Archbishop asked the choir to return, and a couple times during his speech, he started singing and moving, joined by the choir. Once he interrupted his speech to tell some kids to quit standing on the window ledges. I must insert that the windows were all broken out, so they were holding on to bars. He told them he hoped they treat the library better than their school. Reflecting on his entire speech – it was moving, inspiring, and truly funny. Hopefully, we can share on our website.

After the ceremony, they had a feast for all the honored guests. Funny note: the evening before they had dumped mounds of rice on an outside concrete floor (quite dirty, of course) at the school. They had many children on their hands and knees picking out the bad rice, so it could be cooked for the dinner. We tried not to think of that scene as we ate.

The team noticed a big difference between the “poverty” level of students at Namirembe and Namatala. At Namirembe, students may have only one school uniform for the year and shabby, sometimes mismatched shoes, but most of the uniforms are still together. The student body at Namatala is much poorer. Many of the children didn’t have shoes, and their uniforms were in shreds.

The guys managed to get two basketball goals put up and three swings attached to the poles yesterday. You should have seen the kids’ faces – total excitement!

I think you will find the team that returns quite changed from when they arrived. Sometimes it takes time to process all that you have seen and experienced, but in the end – time here has a profound effect on one’s life.

There is probably more I should write, but as were the others, I am somewhat exhausted. We were busy every day from early morning to late night. As I sit and think about what all God accomplished through each one in our group, I am overwhelmed. Each person had his/her talents, which we combined with the talents of our Ugandan friends, and together we accomplished a God-size mission for over 3,000 precious children.

What can be said but, “Wow, we did it! To God be the glory amirembe namireme a-meana!”


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