Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Boys School of Bingerville Project

I recently had the chance to visit a boys’ school in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, called the Orphelinat de Garçons de Bingerville or Bingerville Orphanage for Boys and instead of finding the one special child meant just for us, I fell for the entire school!

We spent a couple of hours our first visit, just looking around, and learning about the school and the boys they serve. I discovered that :
  • The school boards 253 boys, ages 5 to 15
  • 233 are in primary school and 20 are in secondary school.
  • Approximately 25% are complete orphans,
  • Including 10% who are orphans of war.
  • Many more just can't afford $40.00 for regular public education.

The school is housed in an old colonial palace, a beautiful but decaying structure where the Governor lived during the period of French colonialism. It took many years to transform from a home for unwanted metis ( half-caste) children to one that serves all Ivoiriens in need. Today, it is under the authority of the Ministry of Family, Woman and Social Services of Côte d’Ivoire.

I asked Max David KONI (the social worker who was taking us around) what his dream would be. He said he'd like an updated library and some computers for the boys. Well, if you know me, that is right up my ally! Before I knew it, I had decided to help them build that library! (Gasp!)

For those who don't know me, I am a librarian -- but not just your regular Marion the Librarian, noooo. I am an Electronic Media Specialist. Which means I am into computers and the internet, and how we use them for research and information gathering. I provide an orientation course to freshman in my school that covers research skills and media literacy.

I When I returned home, I spoke with the Technology Coordinator at my school about the possibility of donating some computers, and believe it or not, he agreed, and was excited abut the prospect! He said I needed a letter from the school to get the ball rolling.

On my second visit to Cote d'Ivoire and Bingerville, a few weeks later, I picked up their letter. A few weeks later, I submitted it to our board for approval. I should know in a few weeks whether or not it will be approved. Word has it, though, that it "looks doable."!

The plan is to get the donated computers and ship them in February as an African / African American History Month project. In the summer, I hope to return there, perhaps with a few- young people to help work on the library itself.

At least that's the plan.

What I am realizing now is that the generosity of people is not the problem -- its the expense of shipping. People are ready and willing to donate all kinds of goods -- but the more that is donated the more expensive is the shipment! So that is where my focus will have to be -- fundraising for shipping expenses!!

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