This summer, the Literate Earth Project partnered with Skidmore College to send Katy Ballo, winner of a 2018 Minerva Scholarship, to Uganda. We asked Katy to tell us about her experience, and the lessons she learned while working with the Literate Earth Project in Uganda.
I could not have asked for a better experience than what I had this summer in Uganda. I worked with the teachers and children to improve their literacy skills, instill a reading culture, and build a bridge between the library and class. I interviewed teachers, children and librarians on how they were utilizing the library, how it had helped them and how they thought it could be made a better place. This proved fruitful as I found that students and teachers felt they were benefiting from the library, but they weren’t well acquainted on the full range of opportunities the library presented.
To increase engagement with the libraries, I implemented a number of programs for the students. I held classes from Monday to Sunday by organizing different activities for each class, which I had divided into groups. These groups were assigned activities like debate, essay writing, reading, story writing, poems, influential people, which were all competitive and prizes were awarded at the end. The purpose of this was to engage children inside the library, to build TEAM spirit, and leadership skills. I also started a writing and reading club, where I trained students from P5-P7 (equivalent to U.S. grades 4-6) how to organize the library, read, write and compile news for the school. This guaranteed the continued existence of the culture I had developed in the schools, even after I left the school.
It was a privilege for me to work with the children in the primary school where the Literate Earth Project had impacted opened a library. The experience of working with LEP helped me learn what it takes for a non-profit organization to empower underprivileged students, and that seemingly small efforts can still impact lives. My experience also helped me realize that a school without a library has no foundation, because a library is the primary source of information and knowledge. As a result of what I learned this summer, I’m much more prepared to achieve my goal of increasing literacy rates throughout the world.