Lumumba Children’s Library
I want to warmly thank you for visiting the Go Campaign’s fund-raising page for the Lumumba Children’s Library and Learning Center, or LCL. If you’re here, you have probably heard about this from a friend or perhaps you were pestered by one of my family members, or maybe heard about the project through your school. Or you could be one of the many souls who are interested in the disastrous history, and catastrophic present, of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Regardless of how you got here, I sincerely hope that you will decide to donate to an incredibly unique project that can very well influence the next generations of desperately poor youth in one of the world’s most dangerous, but potentially dynamic, regions.
The overarching goal of the LCL is to prepare children from one of the poorest areas in the world (most of whom cannot afford to attend school on a regular basis), to learn the basic tenets of critical thinking. In a country run by corrupt leaders, over-run by violent warlords and systematically pillaged of its abundant natural resources by international corporations, literate, tech-savvy, and intellectually curious young people can become a force of reason and compassion in a place beset by hopelessness and resignation.
The total amount needed to build the LCL is approximately $363,000 USD. We are hoping to raise funds for the initial phase, or $165,000 USD, during the first phase of fundraising. That will accomplish getting the basic structure up, the roof installed, and high-security wall and gate built. Please glance at the Operational Plan on this site to see our engineer’s and architect’s vision for this one of a kind e-learning center, which will be built using donated shipping containers on a plot of land we have already secured. The opportunity to be part of this remarkable dream and the plans we have for enhanced learning programs for the children is the most exciting and meaningful thing I have ever done in my life. Please. Join me.
OPERATIONAL PLAN AND VISION
When the Lumumba Children’s Library and Learning Center (LCL) opens its doors to the youth of Goma—the provincial capital of one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world—it will offer a host of resources and activities designed to enhance the literacy and language of a new generation of Congolese youth while at the same time, teaching them the tenets of critical thinking. There is not a single public library in Goma, a city of more than 1M and most children there do not attend school on a regular or sustained basis. The LCL will be built and supported by foreign donations and grants and, once established, will seek permanent funding from local and national agencies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as international foundations.
DAY TO DAY OPERATIONS AND PROGRAMS
The LCL will be open to ALL youth of Goma and its surrounding villages. There will be a modest, one-time fee for “membership”. Adults may use the LCL only at specific, established times—when children are not present—and must pay a small usage fee each time.
The LCL will be a large, one-story, well-ventilated building, made up of 7, forty-foot shipping containers that create a rectangular border supporting a single roof over the entirety. This creates large, airy spaces beneath the roof. The building is designed by engineers and architects with experience at creating sustainable and low-cost, educational spaces in Africa, including building with shipping containers. The final design features a welcoming and enhanced learning environment offering an array of facilities and programs aimed at inspiring Goma’s undeserved and under-educated youth to value literacy, community building, and critical thinking.
The physical space of the building will be comprised of a large entry foyer which opens onto the main space, or Reading Room—a bright and open environment with tables and chairs. This is a multi-purpose space, and can be used for events, larger classes, or meetings.
Off the Reading Room (and “inside” two of the shipping containers) is the Lending Library, an L-shaped area with bookshelves containing thousands of books, in several languages, including books for young children. Windows look in to the reading room from the Lending Library, enhancing the open, airy effect while creating a safe and secure space for the children. Also off the main space are two offices, a janitorial closet and the electrical/tech closet. Off the entry foyer in the opposite direction, through a set of wide doors, is the Technology Center, another large open space beneath the roof. Smaller than the main Reading Room, the Technology Center will also have tables and chairs and will showcase the LCL’s commitment to cutting edge education and literacy by featuring the latest in educational technology. Off this room will be two classrooms, each accommodating 6-10 students and their instructor. A large sliding door featuring a striking mural forms part of the back wall of the Technology Center. Sliding the mural open allows access to the 100-seat, state-of-the-art, Screening Room. The Screening Room can also be used for lectures, poetry jams, community gatherings, and musical events.
Behind a partition in the entry foyer are double doors that access the Cafe. The Café opens onto a covered, outside terrace, with tables and chairs. While they can be accessed from the Reading Room, the Sanitation Stations are just off the terrace. They include separate Boy’s and Girl’s bathrooms and hand-washing stations. The entire building, including some of the interior spaces will be a canvas for local artists to convey imagery dear to the region. Murals will include images of Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected president of the DRC and the LCL’s namesake; the iconic animals of the region: the okapi, elephant, and mountain gorilla; the volcanic peaks around Goma; the stunning flora and fauna; all in a pleasing and uplifting color palette.
The entire parcel of land will be enclosed by a security wall made of the ubiquitous black Goma lava. There will be two iron gates allowing for vehicle and pedestrian access (3 secure parking spaces available for staff only), security ramparts or towers, and a single outbuilding (another shipping container) for security staff lodgings and storage. The remaining grounds will be used as a learning garden and play area.
DAY TO DAY OPERATIONS AND PROGRAMS
The LCL will be open daily, and potentially some evenings, and will be wholly self-sufficient, capturing rainwater and generating its own solar power. The LCL operation will be overseen by Fidel Bafilemba, a polyglot and highly regarded member of Goma’s civil society. Mr. Bafilemba has been an English teacher and academic. It is his passion and patriotism that has inspired the creation of the LCL. Mr. Bafilemba will be joined by several trained staffers and volunteers. The staff will include:
- 2 round-the-clock security guards
- 1 receptionist
- 2 janitorial staff
- 1 office manager
- 1 librarian
- 1 IT manager
Mr. Bafilemba and a volunteer teaching staff will teach basic technology, literacy, and English courses while offering a variety of enrichment programs, including but not limited to: graphic design, writing, poetry, high-yield gardening, computer programming, video production, video editing, art, performance art, and much more. It should be noted that many people in the U.S. have enthusiastically expressed an interest in travelling to Goma to volunteer at the LCL. A more formal vetting and training program is in the works. In addition, a program will be established to bring young “graduates” of the LCL to America for specialized training so they may return to Goma and work as full-time staff at the LCL.
Children, especially younger children, will be highly encouraged to make use of the Lending Library. While there is not a tradition of lending in eastern Congo, the importance of a working Lending Library will teach youth about borrowing and respecting other’s property, while introducing them to the fascinating world of books and reading. In addition, all children will be asked to wash their hands before entering the LCL, encouraging in them a healthy respect for the treatment and care of not only books, but of the expensive technology they will learn to use at the LCL. Children will be allowed to borrow a book to take home, signing it out with their membership card and receiving a due date, as they would at any library. They will be encouraged to read their book while at the LCL and to seek out help when needed. Their progress will be monitored and they will be placed in literacy courses provided by the LCL at their appropriate reading level. To be clear, the LCL is not seeking to replace the traditional school. However, it will seek to enhance the literacy competence of each child who enters its doors.
All children will be encouraged to learn English while at the LCL. While technology and literacy courses, and many other programs, will be in their native Swahili or French, it is believed that by learning to read, write, and speak effectively in English, the youth will greatly broaden their chances for higher education and significant regional employment as they get older, as the best opportunities for them will be in neighboring Anglophone countries such as Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Mr. Bafilemba, a trained and experienced English teacher, will oversee the English literacy program at the LCL which will include classes in Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced English; English Grammar and Writing; and English Vocabulary. These classes will be available to all youth, ages 6-20, and not only make use of the books in the lending library but also the English language learning curriculum in the Technology Center.
There is already incredible enthusiasm from folks living near the LCL site. And it cannot be understated how important the excitement, participation, and appreciation of the project by local residents is to the success of the LCL, both from a community enrichment standpoint, but also for long-term security of the project itself. The LCL will immediately become the centerpiece of the community and it will be incumbent upon the project organizers to foster partnerships at every opportunity. Inviting community leaders and special guests to community events at the LCL will help establish the new center as a vital resource, one worth fighting for by local residents. Indeed, given the endemic insecurity of the region, creating a beacon of hope for the area’s children will give the people of Goma a beloved cause to fiercely protect.
Local artists have volunteered their time and effort while several prominent businessmen have pledged their support. In addition, the UN peacekeeping force in Congo (the largest donor group in the region) is donating and transporting the 8 shipping containers to the LCL site. Other organizations will take note of this fact. All these allies will serve to bolster support for the LCL, both within Goma and in the international community.
Some of the other fascinating components to the LCL’s educational programs will include on-line library subscriptions to the collections in the U.S. Library of Congress and the Sorbonne, allowing Congolese children to have at their fingertips the greatest literature in the world; and a proven program from the American University of Nigeria that teaches young people how to get hi-yield harvests from very small plots of land. Our “Learning Garden” will offer valuable knowledge to children who can immediately implement these new ideas at home. A youth-run radio show (radio is still king in eastern Congo) would allow the area’s kids to get the word out about the LCL and to begin discussing critical thinking and their approach to enhanced learning and technology over the airwaves of North Kivu.
ASANTE SANA TO THE MANY FRIENDS OF THE LCL
Asante Sana means ‘thank you very much’ in Swahili. And we mean it!! To date, the LCL has received more than 8,000 books from groups and individuals across the country. Several schools have volunteered to have book drives and have used the moment to teach about children’s literacy in eastern Congo. This has had a profound impact on the world view of many American students and their teachers who have helped collect books here at home for the LCL. In addition, the project has been buoyed by the incredible expertise of Cobo Construction and VIA Design Studio of Miami who have generously provided unique and magnificent architectural designs and renderings of what will become the LCL. In Goma, Mr. Bafilemba has worked tirelessly with Congolese engineer and builder, Placide Mumbere, who have conducted numerous site inspections and priced the necessary materials regionally that will be needed to build the LCL. Much work has been done. But there is much left to do.
Currently, GO Campaign, an amazing organization committed to helping undeserved children around the world, is serving as our fiscal sponsor. All donations to the LCL through GO Campaign will be tax-deductible. Visit the LCL’s website for more information, pictures, and plans of this life-changing literacy project for undeserved children in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.