Girl Scout Starts a Library in Sierra Leone

03/12/15

Seventeen-year-old Martha Rabura of Kingston, Washington, has read more books in her life than probably exist in the entire chiefdom of Upper Banta in Sierra Leone. 

 
There are no bookstores or libraries in the villages here. Books are a rare sight, and most adults cannot read. But Martha is working to change this by starting the first elementary school library in this rural region of Sierra Leone. 
 
As part of her Girls Scouts Gold Award project, Martha’s goal is to send 2,400 books to Sierra Leone to create a library at Children of the Nations’ Mallory Jansen Memorial Primary School. COTN currently has a small library of textbooks at its secondary school, but recreational books, especially for younger kids, are in very short supply.
 
“You need books to read and not just textbooks,” says Martha. “I’m going to give these kids a place to read and books to read.” 
 
Martha’s passion for reading has shaped her life and inspired this ambitious project. “I have a huge thirst for knowledge and experiences,” she explains. “I want to travel everywhere and my bucket list is extremely long. I think books are a key factor to this huge part of me.”
 
Martha's project will have a big impact. Books encourage literacy—a key element to breaking the cycle of poverty. Take a map of the world’s most impoverished countries, lay it over a map of the countries with the lowest literacy rates and you’ll see a lot of similarities. 

The Mallory Jansen School is located in a severely underdeveloped area of Sierra Leone. Access to books is limited, and most parents cannot read.
 
Books are already helping the Mallory Jansen students change their identity on the map. It started with COTN’s 2013 education campaign called “Year of the Reader.” Every morning, students read a book for the first fifteen minutes of class. At Christmas, every child received a book as a gift. For many children, this was the first book they ever owned.
 
Recreational reading is essential for literacy—something children in Sierra Leone struggle to achieve because of all the factors stacked up against them. Today as Sarah Saunier, COTN’s education consultant in Sierra Leone, walks through the local village, she sees more and more students reading for fun. Soon, thanks to Martha’s efforts, these students will be able to do something students in the United States do every week: visit the library after school. 
 
“Books open children’s minds to a new world,” says COTN's Sierra Leone education specialist, Sarah Saunier. The new library is a symbol to the students and the community that books are important.
 
With the help of her community in Kingston, Washington, Martha has already collected hundreds of books through several schools, bookstores, her church, and a community center. Now she’s turning all of her attention to the main event—a book drive through Barnes and Noble. For every person who uses a special code at checkout this Saturday, the company will donate 15 percent of the sale to the Sierra Leone library fund. (See below to learn how you can be a part of this, wherever you happen to be.)
 
One day Martha hopes she can visit this little library, but for now she’s staying focused on collecting as many books as she can to help the children. “Education will help solve problems in the world,” Martha says, “People can’t solve problems in their world without education.”
 

If you would like to help Martha fill the library in Sierra Leone, use the book fair ID #11569639 at any Barnes and Noble on Saturday March 14, 2015, or shop online from March 14 - 19 at bn.com/bookfairs.