Students, faculty gather books to establish school library in Kenya

Western Carolina University faculty and students will deliver books to Wongonyi, Kenya, and are prepared to do additional work while there to help establish a library at a local primary school.

The books were gathered from a recent campus donation drive.

“We have a team assembled to help residents in building library fixtures, a children’s librarian to organize and do professional development, and an artist to help lead in painting a mural,” said Rus Binkley, associate professor in WCU’s School of Teaching and Learning, and a trip organizer. “Then we have our students ready to do what is needed, especially to work in classrooms, to allow time for teachers to be out while learning how to use a library.”

The team will depart Friday, Sept. 28, for a two-week stay in Wongonyi, a small village on top of a mountain located about five hours southwest of Nairobi. Surrounded on three sides by national parks, the community is isolated from major population centers and remote because of poor roads. Nonetheless, the community works hard to improve the local schools and about a dozen WCU students are expected to make the trip, Binkley said.

Part of the team boxing books for Kenya.

The call for donations went out from WCU’s Center for Service Learning for appropriate books. Needed publications ranged from reference works such as almanacs and dictionaries to pre-teen fiction, picture books and sports compilations, with a goal of 1,000 books by June 22. The books will be shipped to Kenya to await the WCU team, which will then deliver them to Wongonyi.

“When faculty, students and community partners come together to identify an opportunity, it is easy to get behind it,” said Lane Perry, director of the Center for Service Learning. “This was the opportunity the center was presented with back in early May. We knew we could help organize the book drive because it had all the necessary components ― authentic community need, faculty expertise and student engagement. Equally as important, it was evident to our campus community that this project had all of these elements, and I think the level of success realized by the drive affirms this, with nearly 2,000 books and $1,000 in support over a single month.”

For more information, contact Binkley at 828-227-3349 or rbinkley@wcu.edu.