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Establishing a Children’s Library in Zambia

Establishing a Children’s Library in Zambia

Jo and her family are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They recently moved to Zambia, and when Jo found a need, because of the teachings of the Church, such as love, compassion, and service, she is trying to fill that need. In following Christ, she is serving her community and blessing the lives of those around her. Here is her story:

Jo and her family are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They recently moved to Zambia, and when Jo found a need, because of the teachings of the Church, such as love, compassion, and service, she is trying to fill that need. In following Christ, she is serving her community and blessing the lives of those around her. Here is her story:

We live in a rural area in the North West Province of Zambia, near the Angolan border. The town is called Chavuma and is on the Zambezi River. There is one bank, a post office and some small shops. Our corner of Chavuma is called Chisekeseke, which means place of sand.

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I teach English to a group of grade 8 children in the afternoons after school. They can’t afford to pay for extra lessons. People here are mostly farmers with some government employees and teachers. During a lesson we read a poem about a kangaroo. The children didn’t know what a kangaroo was, and they had never heard of Australia. I realized that the children here don’t have access to reference books or encyclopaedias. They don’t read, either, because there are no books - not a single book for sale or to borrow within 600km. The schools don't have libraries. The children didn't even know what a library was!
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I love reading and was blessed to grow up in a family where we always had books. Our Mum took us to the library regularly. It was a wakeup call for me to learn that the children here in Chavuma don't have access to books. I decided to start a children's library. It is in the very beginning stages.

My husband, Tom is a tour guide and was away from home a lot. Sometimes he was only home for a few days a month. A family in our Somerset West Ward, Cape Town Stake, was thinking of moving to Zambia. The mother of this family was nervous about living in a remote area with their two young children and asked what I thought of it. I replied that living in the African bush is an irreplaceable experience, having spent much of my childhood on a farm in the bush in Zimbabwe where I was born. She asked if I would go …. and I said I would go tomorrow! 

We considered and prayed as a family and individually and realized it was right for us to move to Zambia. The biggest obstacle was selling our house because we lived in a holiday village where it could take up to a year to sell a house. We needed to sell, otherwise we couldn’t afford to start up in Zambia.  It was an emotional time for us all.  Saying goodbye to our hard-earned, lovely yellow wooden house by the sea was not easy.  As always, the Lord provided a way and our house sold in a month! We rented a house for 6 months while we prepared every needful thing – yes, even seeds of nearly every kind. It is a blessing to have my husband home in the evenings now, and our six children love being able to see their Papa each day.

The library is mobile, on a modified flatbed trailer. I sit in the market place for a few hours on Saturdays and children can borrow books from there. The villages here are far apart and very few people have vehicles. They walk everywhere. I want to be able to reach as many children as possible, so I will take the library to them. Eventually we may rent a space in a building. I expect to hand the running of the library over to a Zambian before we leave. 
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My sister's ward in Utah is sending 30kg of books for the library. I am starting the library with the few books we could bring. Family and friends in South Africa and Germany are also sending books. I am really excited about this project! 'Organise yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house... a house of learning...' (D&C 88:119). Books and learning are important for all of God's children. Education is a way to improve ourselves - 'the glory of God is intelligence' (D&C 93: 36).

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