Monday, March 31, 2008

In Their Own Words - Premier

On March, 30, Kepler's hosted the premier of In Their Own Words, a documentary about the African Library Project. Angela K. gives her impressions of the event~

As a store, we should feel very proud to have been (and continue to be) involved with this amazing, life changing program.

I’m not certain that everyone is aware of what we are doing with ALP, so I will remind you that we are currently collecting books to send another shipment to Africa. The collection bin is in the front window. Last time, we sent over 1,000 books to a school library in Botswana. I hope that we can exceed that number with our next shipment. If you visit their website, there is a bunch of information about what they are doing and how you can help!

It is one thing to put books in a box and send them away to another country. It is another, to see and hear how this simple act can affect change in a stranger’s life. One of the most interesting comments I heard at this event was that in 20 years, these children are going to be the leaders in their nation and their communities. I think it is pretty amazing to think that by placing a book in one child’s hand, it can perhaps lead to a positive change in his or her life that will in turn change the lives of all those around that child.

Chris Bradshaw, the founder, did an impressive job of showcasing just how important the work that ALP is doing by arranging for a wide variety of fascinating speakers to come and share their work with us. My favorite was Matthews. He's in this picture:

Matthews grew up in Africa, one of 8 children. Every day he walked a total of 10 miles to get to and from school. At his school, the teacher only had one book for the whole class. She had to copy it onto the chalkboard to share it with the kids which didn’t allow for a very comprehensive education. He said that it frustrated him because the learning process was so slow and oftentimes, he couldn’t even read the teacher’s writing which lead to a lot of confusion on his part. He managed to persevere though and attended a teacher’s training college, where at the age of 19, he finally owned his FIRST book. He said that it was so precious to him that he slept with it at night. He returned to the village he grew up in to be a teacher, where once again, he met the challenge of having to educate kids with severely limited resources. Now, he is working towards a nursing degree while sitting on the Board of Directors of ALP. Since he experienced things first hand, he knows very well how important it is that books get into the hands of these kids and his story is one that will hopefully be inspiring to those kids who are receiving help through ALP.

In addition to Matthews, there was Gareth Lacey who was one of the earliest library developers of the program. While in the Peace Corps, he worked to collect books for the primary school he worked at and shared that the work helped give him purpose –it made him feel like he was REALLY making a difference. He even called the principal of the school (King’s Day Primary) and put him on speakerphone so the audience could listen to him talk about how much the students appreciated what was being done for them.

The film screening came next and it was quite moving. Both filmmakers were on hand to talk about their experiences in Botswana and Lesotho. They shot over 18 hours of video, all of which they hope to edit together to make a longer, more comprehensive documentary. (Of course, what is holding them back is funding.)

Afterwards, Chis had all the book drive organizers come up and speak about what they had done. Speakers ranged from Girl Scout troops, to businesses (like us!), to service organizations. Most impressive was the 13 year old girl who single handedly collected 3,000 books to send to Africa. I wish I had been that motivated when I was 13.

I bet that I could go on and on about all that I saw and heard on Sunday. I took many pages of notes. If anyone is interested, I’d be happy to speak more about what I learned!


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