School was out for the summer but these local educators were not slowing down one bit! In mid-June Nicole McGrane and Audrey Juliani (Barranca teachers), Petra Pirc McDowell (former LAPS physical therapist), Sharon Allen (retired teacher), Nicole’s daughter Kaitlyn (LAHS sophomore), and Petra’s daughter Hailey (LAMS 8 th grader) headed to far western Kenya to some small, remote islands off the shores of Lake Victoria, near the Uganda border.
Undaunted by the challenges of traveling in over-packed vans on unpaved, washed out roads to an area of the world where cars are seldom seen, these women helped change the lives of hundreds of children while also finding their own lives profoundly affected. The group’s focus was mainly to help in the delivery and set-up of libraries in 29 primary schools on various islands in the Mbita sub-county of Kenya.
Thirteen (13) of the 1000 book libraries delivered were collected and packed right here in our town – one each from our 7 Los Alamos schools and the remaining 6 from our community, all during the past school year.
Funds for shipping, a total of $6,500, were raised by the schools through the creative efforts of many dedicated school personnel and other enthusiastic donors.
Upon arrival at Kakrigu Primary School, Audrey and Nicole were surprised to find the new library, created by Barranca students, had been named after the two of them! They spent the day teaching and observing at the school and were even served a special lunch of native foods prepared for them by the teachers. Kaitlyn presented donated soccer balls to a few different schools and Hailey enjoyed interacting with peers about similarities and differences in their daily lives. The girls found that while they are at after school sports practices, taking music lessons, or hanging out with friends, their Kenyan counterparts are carrying water long distances on their heads, fishing to support their families, or gathering firewood.
Many Kenyan youth do not progress in school beyond grade 8 due to overwhelming family and financial challenges. Sharon was happy to be helping unpack, shelve, and organize books in addition to singing, dancing, and reading with the youngest pupils. Petra found a real niche at a school for special needs students where her skills as a physical therapist were used to help kids learn to sit up and even to walk! At a school on top of a rocky hill overlooking Lake Victoria she did yoga with tons energetic students!
Finally, a day-long safari in the Masai Mara provided spectacular animal sightings making the end of the trip just a little less painful. All involved agreed the trip was worthwhile, inspirational and life changing!
The creation of libraries for African schools is an ongoing project in cooperation with the African Library Project (www.africanlibraryproject.org).
For more information, to obtain a speaker for your group or organization, to donate books or shipping funds, or to see how you can get involved please contact Sharon at: firstname.lastname@example.org.