A Partnership to Bring Libraries to Refugees

This past summer The Literate Earth Project (LEP) and Pangea Educational Development opened a library in one of the largest refugee camps in Africa. Learn how the partnership developed in a conversation with Jeff Fonda, Founder and CEO of LEP, and Drew Edwards, Co-Founder and CEO for Pangea Educational Development.

How did the Literate Earth Project and Pangea Educational Development begin working together?

Jeff: About six months ago, Martin Quigley, our Director of Community Engagement and Analytics, came across Pangea’s website and directed me to it. To be honest, I didn’t think much would come of reaching out. Certainly, there were synergies between the work it looked like they were doing and what we do, but we’ve contacted hundreds of organizations and rarely even got a response from them, let alone have the ability to partner. I shot off an email anyway and to my surprise we got a response pretty quickly from their Co-Founder, Drew.

What are you hoping to accomplish through this collaboration? How did you start working together?

Drew: Partnerships are important. We’ve had similar experience in trying to build them with other nonprofits and NGOs and there does seem to be a mentality that if you work together someone else might get the credit or funds you need. That’s clearly not how either Jeff or I perceive this work. The recognition of our work is important to ensure we generate the funds to continue it but that cannot be the driving force for the work you do.

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Jeff: There are obvious benefits to many partnerships, which include cost savings and having a more impactful outcome, and this partnership is a perfect fit. Pangea's expertise in educational training and civic programs is being complimented by our proven track record of building community relationships, delivering books and creating literacy infrastructure. It’s been great to see it come together. The process started out by having our staff in Uganda visit their sites and Pangea staff visiting our libraries. We saw good work was being done, built some trust, and now we’ve found a significant opportunity to impact those who are most in need: refugees.

Drew, could you tell us a little more about the refugee settlement camp, and why this partnership is important? 

Drew: Imvepi Refugee Settlement camp was created just 18 months ago. Since then, it has swelled to over 127,000 refugees 57% of which are school aged, under the age of 18. There has been a tremendous effort to build classrooms quickly - despite this only 10% of children can be accommodated. Some classes reach up to 176 students to one teacher. We, along with several organizations are investing in out of school learning opportunities to help ensure that every child, despite whether they have a seat in a classroom, has the opportunity to learn to read.

Jeff: It’s a necessity. You’re catching children who have fled war zones and are at a crucial point in their development. Do we want them to be angry at the world or do we want to provide them with tools to ensure they can build better lives and that they see the world as a welcome place, full of opportunity? It’s imperative they are given an outlet and are not forgotten. It is this kind of work which determines if a child seeks a life of positivity or succumbs to the forces of negativity. We have to create an enticing path for them. We realize, this is just one library but if we find success, we hope to do expand this work throughout this and other camps.  

Drew: So please keep an eye for updates as this project and partnership develops over the next year and don’t forget to support both of our organizations by signing up for our newsletters and consider donating so that we can continue this work!

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Pangea Educational Development focuses on increasing the quality of education for students in Uganda through a comprehensive approach that addresses in-school, out of school, and at home factors. Pangea’s latest initiative, Pangea Publishing, intends to increase access to culturally and linguistically relevant texts to build literacy skills for students and develop a culture of literacy within households.

 The Literate Earth Project (LEP) believes that literacy and education are the driving forces behind social, economic and political change. LEP envisions a world where children in every nation have access to books, libraries and quality education.