Each time we go to Zambia, I ask in advance for Fr. Pierre to contact the school administrators, the board members of the Mulungushi Agro Cooperative, village leaders, a parent representative (sort of like our PTO), and his leadership team from the Sunflower Orphanage. I have him set a meeting for the date and time that I request, and everyone attends, ready and hopeful for a new project, good news, and wonderful fellowship. Together, we discuss issues and needs, and in the end, discern priorities. This past June 2015, my long-hoped-for library was moved to the top of the list. I can’t imagine a life without books, never to have read to my child, not being able to look up information, or just read for pleasure. That is their life. At the elementary school where I teach, so many kids say they’d rather play a video game than read. Do they not know that the books they ignore are precious to those who don’t have them?
Last year, I found a wonderful book store in the capital, Lusaka. Every book was carefully wrapped in cellophane, telling me how precious it was. I was ecstatic to find, Tale of Two Cities, Treasure Island, The Last of the Mohicans, and so many more classics. I immediately filled my arms with these literary goldmines, as teachers tend to do. I was so excited to have found them, and soon had to start adding the total cost in my head to see how many I could buy with my remaining kwacha…..kwacha…suddenly, it occurred to me that the $4.99 on the back was what I’d pay in the USA, and the little white tag on the front with a “K” gave the actual price in kwachas. A little math led me to the astonishing realization that each of these was equivalent to $20 USD; four times the price we’d pay! No wonder each was so carefully wrapped. Sadly, I could only take 5, and it broke my heart to put the rest on the shelves. Right then and there, I knew I’d have to get books donated and purchased back home, and ship an ocean container. At $30,000 for the shipping, I could send many more books than the 1500 my kwacha would buy, along with supplies and building materials to construct and fill the library.
I am ready for the challenge of raising the $100,000 to make this a reality. It will take a lot of effort, but it’s worth it; they’re worth it. Without education, they don’t stand a chance. Life in the bush is hard, and to survive and raise a family, you need work. Out in the bush, there is none. If you can grow enough crops to feed your family, you might make it, but drought conditions are hindering that, and what about the dry, winter season, when only a few things will grow, but need irrigated? Education is the only answer, and we are here to make this happen.