Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hapja Bibliotekë

My main assignment with Peace Corps is to teach English as a foreign language. Although I spend almost every day at school, I still have ample time to work on secondary projects. The project in which I have spent the most time on and that is probably the largest of my service is the creation of a library/community center for the town of Himare. It has taken over a year to begin and complete, but it is one of my favorite and fulfilling things I have done throughout my Peace Corps experience.

The first summer I spent as a Peace Corps volunteer in Himare was an exciting, new, and a bit uncomfortable, at times, experience. Two of the goals that I had set for myself was to get to know community members and students, as well as start 2-3 summer English courses. Getting courses started was difficult primarily because I didn't know many people in town. I first needed to find a space where I could hold courses and then I would begin to advertise for the English courses. The elementary school director was kind enough to allow me the use of a classroom in the elementary school for my first summer. Unfortunately, not long after the start of the 2010-2011 school year the school director changed and I was no longer given the privilege to use the elementary school for a meeting place. This created quite a dilemma.

There were absolutely no public meeting spaces in Himare. The school was off limits and there was no 'culture palace' (rec. center) or library where I could meet with students to work on English or various other projects. That was when I decided that Himare could really use a library/community center. It was pretty tough to get people excited and interested in the idea and actually making it come to life. However, once I got the ball rolling on my own, more and more community members jumped on board and were more than happy to support this addition to their community. In order for the library to become a reality we needed funding and community support/participation.

The need for a library and a free space for kids to productively spend their time was great. Not only was there a need, but there was a desire by the students to make this project happen. High-school boys did the painting, high-school girls helped out with the cleaning, and all the younger, excited children were great at advertising and talking up the library project. All the kids did their part. 

In order to fund and make this project possible, my counterpart and I applied for a Small Projects Assistance grant from USAID, from which we were awarded 3,000 USD. In addition to the grant money, Banka Populore in Himare gave our project another 1,500 USD, the middle school girls from The Hockaday School in Dallas, TX organized a book drive in order to contribute English books to the library, and Mr. and Mrs. Tom Hammett donated a sum to help out with the purchasing of Albanian books. Without the help of all these people, the Himare library would not have come into existence. Thank you again for your support and contributions!

For more photos of the library click here



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