Mission Diary: The Library of Hope

The library is called “Youth, hope of tomorrow.” The idea of instilling the love of reading and to offer the students an appropriate space to study. A Comboni Sister talks about this project.

It is three in the afternoon and I need to open the library. Marcelina and her sister Susan are waiting for me to open the door so that the children and youth will come in and study. The books, the water, the chairs, and the entrance cards all are ready.

I am in the town of Isiro, which is located in the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo. I like working with children and young people, and have been lucky to be able to spend my time with them. I have taught in the classrooms and have accompanied youth who are discerning a religious vocation and have also provided spiritual formation to those youth who want to become missionaries.

When I was young, I used to play the role of a teacher. Now that I am older and a teacher, I have not lost the enthusiasm I had as a child to be a teacher. Teaching has again become an activity that fills me with joy and gives me life. I teach classes in religious education at the secondary school level and enjoy very much the older students and fellow teachers.

In addition to my work in the classroom, I am also working with the teachers in organizing various initiatives with the youth. One of those projects is a library called “Youth, hope of tomorrow.” The project started years ago with the idea of instilling the love of reading and to offer to the students an appropriate space to study.

At the beginning, the library started to receive many children who dreamt of having a book in their hands. As the children were not accustomed to reading, I solicited the collaboration of some of the youth with the hope that they would accompany the smaller children. I was in charge of a group of secondary students. While this older group can read and study on their own, they would often ask my help when it came to researching a particular topic, or preparing written materials requested by colleges. Aside from these classrooms for the younger students, there is also a study hall for the teachers and university students.

It is beautiful to see the children arriving with joy and following the rules of the library, which include: registering upon arrival at the entrance to the library, having the right to borrow a book, the necessity to wash one’s hands so that the volumes of books remain clean, and that the children sit in their seat and wait patiently to be assisted by the library staff.

To enable the experience to be positive for the smallest of the children, we have been intentional with a few things. First, and quite simply, we have acquired small chairs that are appropriate for the children. This is a first for the children as their homes would only have the full-size chairs and they would have to make do with them. The children feel quite content in chairs that have been made for them. We have also employed games that are intended to teach the children for the last half hour before closing the library. The children absolutely enjoy the games as it is something new to them. The puzzles, the word games and construction projects, they are all a success. In addition to assisting the children with reading, during the course of the year we also have workshops on writing and drawing.

We also have “fellows” who help us keep the library alive. We help them financially with their studies and they, in return, lend us a hand in our activities. In this way, we also encourage these young volunteers to grow in responsibility. All this work and the efforts of so many people will make the library remain in the hearts of many children.

(Sr. Amelia Romo)

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