Today is my birthday and I can't remember a better one, filled with giddy excitement, almost like a five year old. I am not sure of all of the reasons for this feeling but I know in my heart one reason is because I am so lucky to be surrounded by incredible friends near and far. And, because exciting things are happening here and in Burundi that could mean hundreds of books getting into the hands of children who need them. Soon. Very soon.
A small part of our Books for Kigutu group was able to SKYPE for one hour today with Deogratias
Niyizonkiza and Lisha McCormick of Village Health Works.
(This picture of Kigutu Primary School was taken in February 2013 by
Thank you to Les Robertson, Jody Streetman and my husband, Bryce Leppek for getting together and sharing your
thoughts and questions with them. Although I leave this meeting and SKYPE session with renewed vigor and inspiration
I also leave with a heavy heart.
Deo shared this story with us about Kigutu Primary School. This is what he told us. The school is being run by a nearby
Church and the Church Bishop is in charge of the school. The school is a public school. The minister of
education in Burundi oversees education but the government has given no budget to them. So, often, the running
of the schools is given over to the churches. This Bishop who is overseeing Kigutu Primary has only a fourth grade
education. He is not very interested in children getting educated, Deo explained, because then he would not be so
powerful. In Burundi, Deo explained, the Catholic Church and other Christian churches have a lot of competition
for members. Deo also said that when Kigutu women began helping build the Village Health Works clinic, the nearby
church told them this was not a good idea. The Bishop explained that the women and children were sick, not from
disease, but because they had sinned. This is such a sad story that my heart hurts. Deo ended by adding,
"Now the women are seeing the work we are doing and are learning that education is so very important. They are
wising up." He encouraged us to continue our efforts to help these children and invest in their future.
Many other wonderful things are happening in Kigutu through Village Health Works. A community sharing of music with
teachers from Julliard and elsewhere visited the village in February for 7 days. This delegation was led by VHW
Advisory Board Member Wendy Steiner. Over 100 instruments were given and lessons shared. Deo said the children
were so excited and this program is now being used as an incentive to get children to come to school.
Only if they get their school lessons are they allowed to attend music class.
One of Village Health Works Advisory Board Members and friend, Sarah Bennison, was able to organize the donation
of 500 pairs of children's pajamas, school supplies and soccer balls. She and her father delivered these supplies
in February. Read her wonderful Blog here. And she has posted many photos of her visit.
One of our new goals at Books for Kigutu is to raise enough money to purchase a shipping container and turn it into
a makeshift community library with shelves, catalog and check out system. Then we would ship the whole container
to Tanzania and overland to Burundi. Deo says this is very feasible. He encouraged us by saying, "This would be
terrrific. Then people would see what a library can do for a community. They would be more inclined then to help
us do more."
Do you have ideas about fund raising? Grant writing? Containers? Together we can do great things. Join us at Books
for Kigutu. We would love to hear from you. -Katherine Leppek, founder, Books for Kigutu
Katherine Leppek is a retired elementary school teacher from Medford, Oregon. She says, "I started this project because I am passionate about literacy and the right of every child to have access to books."