This is a special blog post for a project I’m very excited about! As you may remember from some of my earlier blog posts I’m trying to start a library at the primary school where I’ll be working on several projects.
Imagine for a moment that someone came in and removed all the books from your house. How would you help kids learn to read? If you thought about writing, imagine that paper is so expensive you couldn’t use it. Newspapers? Imagine all the newspapers are written in English, a language you understand, but you have to pass all your school tests, exams, etc. in a foreign language. You go to school where textbooks are written in foreign language and your tests are also expected to be written in that foreign language. Those textbooks are the only books you or your child has access to.
It may seem extreme for those of us who had books all our life. I remember my first gift to my niece was a Charlie Brown Christmas book with buttons that played songs. She loved that it played music, but it was constantly forgotten about as she worked through an endless pile of books with fun pictures and sounds. The students at my primary school don’t have any library. The only books these students have access to are the textbooks that come from the school and without any reading preparation these books are too difficult to read for many students.
So here’s what I’m asking:
I believe development should come from the community level which is why I joined Peace Corps. I will rarely ask for money from my friends, family, and communities at home because community projects should come from community means and resources. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to understand your means and resources without education. Education simply can’t continue if students cannot read.
Books for Swaziland (a partnership between Peace Corps and an organization called Books for Africa) is a nation-wide project that will bring enough books to start 30 new school and community libraries all across Swaziland. The books will be free, high-quality books from United States donors, and each organization receiving the books will be responsible to raise 1,500 rand (about $150 USD – a big amount for our schools!) to help ship the books, in addition to providing a library room, shelves, labeling supplies, and a designated librarian.
Through these 30 new libraries, Books for Swaziland will reach approximately 60,000 students in the next ten years. This is nearly 6% of the total country population! Books for Swaziland will train a librarian for each school, approve a library program plan, and deliver over 1,000 quality children’s, young adult, and information books to participating organization. The result of this project will be an increase in literacy and English proficiency among students, as well as increased chances for students to obtain university admission or gainful employment. One library at a time, Books for Swaziland hopes to bring students out of poverty for a brighter, HIV-free future.
Each school/community must provide part of the shipping costs, a furnished room, and a staff member to serve as librarian. It is a hefty commitment on their end! However, the Peace Corps volunteers in Swaziland still need to raise $7232 (the rest to be covered by Peace Corps) to cover half of the cost of shipping the books to Swaziland. That’s where you come in – can you help raise money to support education in Swaziland?
I am asking family members and friends to commit to donating monetarily to this project (if you’d like to send books, I can give you the shipping address for the organization in America). If you feel strongly about helping improve the quality of education and opportunity for Swaziland students, or if you just love me and want to help me out, here are a few ideas for making donating fun and easy:
-Just go online and donate. Easy-peasy. Click here to find out about donating.
-Ask a class at school or church to fundraise. ‘Loose Change for Literacy’ is a great theme and you can compete between classrooms or between guys and girls. The winners get bragging rights, and if you are feeling generous, a party.
-Make donating to this project your end-of-year, tax deductable donation.
-Host a small event with friends and ask everyone to chip in. Maybe you bake homemade lasagna or make dozens of pancakes and charge $15 a plate, or maybe you throw a Vegas-themed party where all winnings go to libraries.
-Simply spread the word where you work, where you worship, or anywhere else you have an audience.
As always, thank you for your encouragement and support of my work in Swaziland. Thank you for helping make that happen!