Good News in October - 2023
From ELI’s beginning ten years ago, we recognized that a library plays a key role in promoting community literacy. Our libraries and outreach programs are providing resources for children and adults at differing proficiency levels; becoming a motivating factor for multiple grassroots literacy and numeracy classes. Learning basic literacy skills empowers individuals to engage in economic opportunities for the betterment of their lives and their communities. Literacy also opens the door for the Gospel message to reach even more hearts and souls.
This issue continues celebrating our ten year anniversary with new stories of familiar individuals and communities changed through our literacy programs. There were many special but never to be forgotten moments during the summer visit, as the ELI team met the Brunelli and Mphonde literacy classes, Mr. Benson and Dorothy.
Brunelli Literacy Class
It was late afternoon and the temperature was becoming chilly as the Brunelli women patiently waited for the ELI team to arrive. They had prepared welcoming songs, which began as soon as the car doors opened and the team stepped out. The dancing started as they led Lana and Mr. Kenneth to the chairs placed in the clearing near their meeting house. Selected women testified about the life changing impact of the literacy program. In just two years, these determined women had learned to read and write. They also managed a small bean field, mastered basic tailoring skills, contracted with local schools to sew school uniforms and sold additional items in a nearby shop.
Beautiful dresses were proudly displayed and they offered to make Lana something special! A highlight was meeting Elizabeth, a young woman who had already passed the Zambian national exam for 7th grade. Her determination to finish high school and become a teacher has inspired another classmate to aim for the same goal.
Lana asked the group, "what's next" and the response was immediate. The women want to start a large chicken project together. They live near a main road and have already determined the best market locations and the best saleswomen in their class! Chimu, who excels at math, serves in the bookkeeper role. The day ended with a brief visit to the local shop managed by Anny, to view the clothing items for sale and then pray together for the next steps.
It was an inspiration for the ELI team to meet these hardworking women and hear their personal stories. Many are widows and it was incredibly difficult for them to provide even the basic necessities for their children. They were so grateful with their new found skills that enabled them to pay their children's school fees. Elizabeth’s accomplishments will inspire many girls to study and dream of a future profession for themselves.
Mr. Benson's Farm Library
Early one morning, the ELI team traveled down another very dusty and bumpy road to Mr. Benson's farm. Mr. Benson has been a regular patron of Susu Community Library for the past four years. He gladly walked the four mile round trip several times a week for the opportunity to read a good book. Soon after discovering the library, he asked permission to take books home to his farm and began holding regular story time for the children living nearby. The mothers of the children and other neighbors soon expressed their desire to learn to read and write. With lives focused on subsistence living, there are very few opportunities in these remote rural communities to learn even basic literacy skills.
Mr. Benson was fortunate to attend school many years ago, and he is passionate about reading and education. Shortly after he began regular visits to the library, Mr. Kenneth asked him, "What is your favorite book?” He replied, "Johnny Tremain” (a classic novel about the American Revolutionary War), because it is a story of a man's character and courage." When asked if he had a new favorite he said, "The Man who Loved Words" (a biography of Noah Wester).
Four women representing the community, plus Mr. Benson's pastor, a church elder and two teenagers were also present that morning. The women asked if an adult literacy program could begin in their community. They wanted to read for themselves and help their children with their school studies - the heart and desire of every mother. With literacy skills, these women hope to develop small businesses so they can provide for their families.
Before the team left, Mr. Benson and his guests expressed their thanks. Mr. Benson looked at Lana and asked, "How did you think of the brilliant idea of a library in a village?" The visit ended with the story of God's faithful leading and miraculous providence over the past ten years. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.
Mobile Library Program
It’s only a one hour flight from Lusaka, Zambia to Lilongwe, Malawi, but the very challenging road trip to Dima village was more than one hour. Potholes covered most of the road and were too big and too deep for the vehicle to safely drive through or around, so the team walked the last thirty minutes to the clearing used for the mobile library. Setting up for the program includes bringing several boxes of books and supplies, plus the one folding table and six chairs owned by ELI. During the rainy season the roads often become totally impassable for cars or even walkers. The skill required to navigate these roads is impressive! The ELI US team was humbled by the dedication and commitment of EL Malawi representatives to faithfully serve the villages of Dima, Mphonde and Chimutu.
Arriving at the village, it was fun to watch the set up of all the program activities. Each village is given two hours, so the team quickly placed the table and chairs under the tree and a water container for washing hands. Anticipation and excitement was evident as the book boxes were opened. The children laughed and cheered as puzzles, games, crafts, and reading books were made available.
Teachers Grace and Bethel helped struggling readers or spent one on one time with Dorothy, as she mastered yet another skill. In only two years, Dorothy has learned sign language and basic math skills; she now completes puzzles, draws pictures, participates in community activities, and many other normal activities for a girl of her age.
Twice a week, Jacob drives to Dima Village to transport Dorothy to and from the sign language school in Lilongwe. She continues to master sign language, and also learns skills needed for future independent living. The ELI team was thrilled to visit the school and watch Dorothy learn to make bread!
After all the supplies were carefully packed up, the team traveled yet another challenging road to meet Mr. Limiton, the book monitor who joyfully holds additional classes and activities for the children of Mphonde. The folding table was again covered with exciting learning resources, but there were too many children for one table, so sports activities were organized and a story time with Kathleen. Grace and Bethel served as interpreters as Kathleen enthralled them with her stories.
The children were so quiet and attentive, we wondered if they understood. The moment Kathleen finished, the children spontaneously burst into cheers and clapping. "More, More," was their cry.
The children thoroughly enjoyed the sports activities. Though there was tough competition, it was Bethel, who won the string game. With great effort, she made a mighty jump straight up and cleared both strings. The applause and cheering went on and on. No one wanted us to leave that day.
Chimutu Village is the last stop on the mobile library route, but children and adults were patiently waiting.The literacy teacher met the team and escorted them to the open air classroom where Mr. Godfrey (the village book monitor) and the adult literacy class sat at the recently acquired folding tables and chairs.
The day's lesson was carefully written on the mobile blackboard, and Lana was invited to join the class and study with the eager students. When it was time for a math lesson, Lana was asked to go to the blackboard. After she successfully solved the problem, her new friends cheered and clapped.
Near the two tables, several women sat on the bare ground, a few holding their small children, but listening and watching attentively to the literacy lessons. The women hope and pray for additional tables and chairs, so they too can fully participate in the learning activities.
It was late afternoon and almost dark when the Malawi team repacked all their supplies. No one wanted the day to end, as special bonds of new friendships had been established. The team waved good bye until the village was out of site, A few tears were shed too.
Malawi Storefront Library
It is now early in the rainy season in Southern Africa; the coming torrential rains often cause severe damage to the already challenging roads. The roads often become impassable to vehicles, and water filled ditches will prevent walking to markets or other important places.
Last year, the bridges over the two roads to Susu were destroyed and visits to the Susu Community Library were impossible. Not wanting this to happen again, local villagers gathered together and rebuilt the bridges by hand. There was one truck available to haul the larger rocks, but it was the determined manpower that accomplished the mission.
The bridge building story is a wonderful illustration of determination, perseverance and hard work demonstrated at all our projects in both Zambia and Malawi. Will you please partner with us, so we might build more bridges that will meet the spiritual and physical needs of the communities we serve?
A faithful monthly partnership is truly appreciated, but your gift to purchase sewing machines, tables & chairs, blackboards or provide shipping for book boxes will bless many. Thank you!