Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Books Have Arrived!

The Books for Africa container, to which many of you kindly donated, finally arrived in Uganda two Saturdays ago, after months of planning, fundraising/soliciting for donations, coordinating logistics, meeting with school staff, renovating the library room, budgeting for the construction of necessary library furniture (bookshelves, tables, chairs), organizing transportation, meeting with and calling my port agent repeatedly, and waiting (lots of waiting).

Clearing the container from Mbale port/customs proved to be frustrating, tiresome, and no easy task. It took much longer (5 days) than it should have (2 days). To put it mildly, having to resolve a Books for Africa packing issue (no labels that identified the number of books in each box) and dealing with customs/Ugandan bureaucracy - finding out about unexpected charges the day of, people trying to cheat more money out of you, constantly being lied to, waiting for a customs officer to show up to unlock the storage warehouse - was a major pain in my butt.

In the end, though, it was worth it.

This past Saturday, the "Libraries for Life" team sorted the container - comprising approximately 22,000 fiction/nonfiction books, workbooks, textbooks, and reference books - at the Musana Children's Home in Iganga. First, we organized the boxes of books by subject (English Literature, Math, Science, Fiction, Reference). Then, we unpacked each subject of books separately, and sorted them into piles, matching corresponding workbooks with their texbooks. Finally, we divvied up and repacked the books into boxes according to the needs and preferences of our schools. While it was a physically and mentally exhausting process, seeing the tangible result of months of hard work made it all worthwhile.

For now, my school's portion of the books are still boxed and locked in a guestroom at the Mission, until the library room is finished being renovated and a qualified librarian is hired/trained. My current focus is how to ensure the future sustainability of the library at Kongunga Secondary School long after I leave. One idea is that I've formed a Staff Library Committee to be in charge of monitoring the library, and to ensure that it achieves its intended objectives. I've also asked the teachers to nominate two students to serve as Library Monitors; this ensures that students hold each other accountable, and take as much ownership in the library as the staff.

Updates to come!

A truck full of  22,000 books, solar lights, computers, and pens.

2 trucks were barely enough to transport the container to Iganga.

A pile of empty boxes.

Books sorted into piles.

The children at the Home eagerly helped us carry the books to be sorted.

Excited for books!

The Libraries for life crew, minus the photographer.