Somerset College books project for Sierra Leone

Somerset County Gazette: Richard and Jonathon Meads accepting the latest donation of books from Jolanta Peters. Richard and Jonathon Meads accepting the latest donation of books from Jolanta Peters.

SOMERSET College, in Taunton, has developed a partnership with the Sella Community Project, a community-based charity in Sierra Leone.

The college has donated a number of library books.

The charity aims to improve the lives of people in the Kamakwie community in north-west Sierra Leone, who are still trying to rebuild their lives after an 11-year civil war.

It was founded by Richard Meads, a former Somerset College student, who developed a strong friendship with a member of the Kamakwie community during business-related visits to the area.

Library books donated by Somerset College helped the charity establish a resource centre to help the people of the Kamakwie community learn basic literacy and numeracy skills for free.

Jolanta Peters, library services manager at Somerset College, said: “It's fantastic that Somerset College is able to support this project and contribute to the learning experience and quality of life for people in a very different and much deprived part of the world.”

Richard Meads and his father Jonathon, recently visited Somerset College from Sierra Leone to thank the College for the ongoing donations and to provide an insight into life in the Kawakwie Community and how the resource centre is helping to improve the quality of life there.

Comments (2)

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3:23pm Mon 21 Jan 13

DanLavin says...

While the donation of books causes great joy and reason for celebration for the donor (including photo ops and maybe even a trip to Sierra Leone), it actually does little to eleviate poverty or improve the educational system. I've lived and worked in Sierra Leone since 1988, paying my own way to travel to most regions of the country. Having personally followed such donations of books, I have found endless molding boxes of books, and shelves of materials unused and forgotten. Even if this donation is successful, it cannot be duplicated by other areas unless they too find a wealthy benefactory willing to spend a fortune (from Sierra Leone standards) to bestow upon them such gifts. In the educational system in Sierra Leone, students are presented with a detailed list of required reading materials for the year, books which often cannot be afforded by the teachers, let alone the students. It has become a theoretical wishlist, but not reality. The donation of foreign reading materials is entertaining, but does nothing to address the students' need for very specific books. There is a better solution, and one that can be duplicated within the country from true sustainable development. It's called a For-Profit Library (FPL). This library is run by the students themselves, in a location provided by the community (thus, no construction of buildings). The FPL also establishes an adjacent garden which is very important. The students determine the hours of operations, maintain the materials and charge a small monthly dues for those that use the library. If someone can't afford the dues, they donate their time in the garden, generating money which supports the library. What our organization does (Community Initiative Programme Sierra Leone/US) is to loan the library the first set of books which they determine to be critical. From the dues collected, they pay their librarian, pay back the loan for the books, then save for replacement and additions of future books. If the librarian finds the operation to be successful, they can take the model and their own profit and open other libraries without the support or finances of foreign organizations.
While the donation of books causes great joy and reason for celebration for the donor (including photo ops and maybe even a trip to Sierra Leone), it actually does little to eleviate poverty or improve the educational system. I've lived and worked in Sierra Leone since 1988, paying my own way to travel to most regions of the country. Having personally followed such donations of books, I have found endless molding boxes of books, and shelves of materials unused and forgotten. Even if this donation is successful, it cannot be duplicated by other areas unless they too find a wealthy benefactory willing to spend a fortune (from Sierra Leone standards) to bestow upon them such gifts. In the educational system in Sierra Leone, students are presented with a detailed list of required reading materials for the year, books which often cannot be afforded by the teachers, let alone the students. It has become a theoretical wishlist, but not reality. The donation of foreign reading materials is entertaining, but does nothing to address the students' need for very specific books. There is a better solution, and one that can be duplicated within the country from true sustainable development. It's called a For-Profit Library (FPL). This library is run by the students themselves, in a location provided by the community (thus, no construction of buildings). The FPL also establishes an adjacent garden which is very important. The students determine the hours of operations, maintain the materials and charge a small monthly dues for those that use the library. If someone can't afford the dues, they donate their time in the garden, generating money which supports the library. What our organization does (Community Initiative Programme Sierra Leone/US) is to loan the library the first set of books which they determine to be critical. From the dues collected, they pay their librarian, pay back the loan for the books, then save for replacement and additions of future books. If the librarian finds the operation to be successful, they can take the model and their own profit and open other libraries without the support or finances of foreign organizations. DanLavin

3:27pm Mon 21 Jan 13

DanLavin says...

If you are interested in more about the Community Initiative Program, and our programs that support real development in education, farming and microfinance, please visit us at https://www.facebook
.com/home.php#!/grou
ps/308754545889597/

Dan Lavin
Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Sierra Leone
If you are interested in more about the Community Initiative Program, and our programs that support real development in education, farming and microfinance, please visit us at https://www.facebook .com/home.php#!/grou ps/308754545889597/ Dan Lavin Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Sierra Leone DanLavin

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