I’ve been in my village nearly three weeks and I’m starting my first project – a library.
The previous volunteer obtained more than a dozen boxes of books from a university in New Hampshire via the African Library Project. At the time, the school didn’t have a room for the books so they sat in a storage closet in the half computer, half science lab. When I arrived, my school’s principal said they have a room and while she obtained the shelves I was to sort the books.
Although unpacking, organizing and plastering the school stamp on intro pages is a bit tedious, I am extremely thankful for work. My first week in the village was quiet and my strolls around the community for the sole purpose of greet people, or as I call them integration walks, were helpful I was thirsty for something purposeful. The start of the library is quenching.
I’ve sorted through hundreds of books, checking reading level so I know where to put them in once-completed library. Some have multiple stamps, likely passed through colleges and high schools, and some have sweet notes of loved resembled by the gift of a book.
I read a fare amount while growing up, not nearly as much as my brother Christopher, but enough to spark a love for the written word. Leisure reading died in college and I always seemed to prefer a copy of The New Yorker or the newspaper over a novel.
My time in the Peace Corps has changed that. Both in Niger and Lesotho, I read a quite deal more than I ever did back at home. Thanks to a dear friend (Ali, you are amazing), I brought a Kindle full of books for my second PC stint. I’ve knocked several of them off, including a friend’s memoir that he asked me to review.
The Basotho aren’t known for leisure reading and I am not sure I’ve ever seen someone engrossed in book since I got here. But, I have been asked for novels and I know they do read in class. I don’t know how successful this library will be, but I have hope that just one student will find wonder in all the bound pages. Maybe he or she will feel life’s lack of limits the way I do when I walk into a bookstore. Books allow us to escape and be someone else, they also allow us to hone our interests and find ourselves. I want just one of my students to understand that.
School starts next week and I am hoping students will come back to school to a new, wondrous library. I want them to discover a world they didn’t know existed before, as cliché as that sounds. With this library, I am sharing a piece of my world with my students.