By Amy Juelsgaard, Program Associate
Emmanuella Nzahabonimana, 2014 fellow of Rwanda, and Barb Mackraz, 2014 Cultural Mentor, recently launched the Jomba Library Project in the mountains two hours outside of Kigali. They plan to develop a library for Jomba Primary School, a school with 1,150 students and zero books. The team also includes Emmanuella’s husband Arthur Byabagambi, who designs and evaluates social development projects as a consultant, and Alice Calaprice, an author specialized in sciences and natural history. Together they aim to gather over 800 books and materials, such as puzzles, games, visual aids, a globe and book stands. About 40% of the books will be nonfiction and focus on the region’s environment, with the goal of instilling an appreciation for the area’s ecosystem. Volcanoes National Park can be seen from the school, and by curating a library of books on the local wildlife and plants, they hope the schoolchildren will develop a sense of stewardship toward the environment. The library will also open its doors to the community.
The school’s headmaster supports the project, knowing that the schoolchildren want and need more resources to enhance their education. “With the help of this library, he dreams of exposing these students to the big world beyond their mountaintop, a world they have never seen,” the project’s website states. The school has a room available for the library, but donations are needed to gather all of the books and learning materials. The team’s goal to raise $2,500 by the end of the year will go toward IT equipment, including a device with content such as Wikipedia, Chromebooks and a projector. World Vision, a nonprofit organization working to address poverty and injustice, will support the initiative by covering shipping costs from the U.S. to Rwanda, furniture and room repairs, and other logistical costs.
Barb draws on her past experience developing libraries with the Morocco Library Project, which she founded in 2014 to increase literacy in rural parts of Morocco. Earlier this year, she traveled to Rwanda to meet with Emmanuella (Ella) and visit the school. “One of the many wonderful things that came out of my experience in TechWomen was the friendship I developed with Ella. I was Ella’s Cultural Mentor in 2014, and we became forever friends,” Barb said.