Friday, November 22, 2013

MY LAST BIG PROJECT: Engari Community Library

Well, I have finally begun my last big project in Uganda! I have around 8 months left to go before I finish my service so it is now crunch time. This project is one that I wanted to do within my village since I arrived. I remember when I first got to my site my Ugandan supervisor, Solomon, mentioned that if I wanted to hide information in Africa just put it into a book. That statement was so disappointing to hear because reading is so important and it is one of my passions. I love getting lost in my books to escape reality and image myself in a completely different world.   

So my project involves building a community library for Engari but using recycled plastic bottles inside the walls instead of bricks. This project has a lot of components with one of the obvious ones being using recycled plastic bottles. The main idea using the bottles is waste management and educating the community on the importance of keeping the community clean as well as the benefits of using plastic bottles for construction. Plastic bottles for construction are cheap because they are free so cost-effective; they are filled with rubbish found within the community so they are extremely environmentally friendly; they are shock absorbent which is important since this region of Uganda is prone to frequent tremors; they are sustainable since rubbish is found everywhere because recycling is rarely done while the remaining rubbish is thrown on the ground or burned. 

Another component of this project is community involvement. This project is promoting volunteerism and community participation with collecting, filling and placing bottles into the wall of the library structure as well as maintaining and running the library after completion. The purpose of so much community involvement is for the community to take ownership and pride of their community library with the hope that it will continue to run and be maintained long after I have left. Also, volunteering in this country usually means people are still getting some sort of facilitation whether it is for travel or food but it is often expected. I’m trying to show the community the benefits of volunteer for completely free. I think what will help, especially the youth, with this aspect is that I’m going to offer the opportunity for secondary school students to volunteer after school and help with leading the book clubs, book readings, and teaching the primary students how to read.

My hope is that Engari community members will become curious with increasing interest in reading and someday develop into a reading culture. Kind of a big dream but I think if people at least have access to a wide range of reading materials some community members are bound to take advantage of these resources. Hopefully it will cause a chain reaction of curiosity and interest among community members.

Okay onto the real issue at hand. Through Peace Corps I am able to apply for grants for a certain amount of money. While using bottle bricks are cost-effective there are still A LOT of other materials needed to construct a sturdy long lasting structure and since my village is fairly rural it is more expensive to transport materials. Unfortunately my grant is only going to cover the costs needed to construct the library structure. Since books are kind of the whole point of building the structure I really need as much help as I can get!  I have created a way for amazing people to donate money and books for the library! If you are interested in helping this truly wonderful community gain access to a library filled with reading materials filled with information from around the world then take a look at this website: Also, if you know of anyone that may be interested in donating money or books please send them the link as well.

The future site for the library

Educating the secondary students about waste management and keeping their community clean as well as the importance of volunteering. The hope is for the students to help collect plastic bottles from around their community for the library structure.

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