This is the story of how Suubi Christian School gained a library of their very own. We are grateful to God and the people He used to give us this gift!
This is the first school library in the entire district of over 500 primary and secondary schools. This library is the same quality as the very expensive international private schools in Kampala that serve diplomats and the high ranking politician’s children. To see a library like that in Bukeka is almost beyond belief. The community members who entered the library building for the first time were absolutely awestruck because in Uganda, most students don’t encounter a book that they hold in their hands until late high school or college.
One woman said with great joy and amazement, “This is full of all of the books in the world. Now our children will know everything!”
The following story of the Suubi library installation is written by Tracy Gaestel, from Pasadena, California.
In 2013 I was visiting my sister in another state and had the opportunity to meet Ronnie Nalera, the founder of Global Hands of Hope. He talked about needing a teacher for the teachers at Suubi, so after some thought I decided to go to Uganda to help train the teachers (what we, in the USA, call professional development).
In 2014, knowing no one in Uganda, but having done professional development for a number of years in the U.S., I got on a plane for a 2 week visit including one week of staff development for the teachers at Suubi School. I’m not sure what was accomplished except that I fell in love with the country, the people I met in Uganda and I realized that I had no idea how to teach people to read with no books for them to read! I went back home, talked to everyone I met and committed to developing a library at Suubi School.
I knew nothing. I was a first grade teacher and had done some staff development in different districts in California. But I knew that I loved books.
Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the people in my church, teachers of library science at Azusa Pacific University, my school district, people in Uganda who had met me briefly or not at all, and my family, we formed a committee of librarians. We developed a plan, gathered books, processed books (oops – forgot about bookshelves), raised funds, and browbeat Bethany Ross (now the U.S. Director of Communications for GHoH) to come and help get this project on its way to Uganda.
In the meantime, Ronnie Nalera and team were frantically raising the money to build a primary school in Bukeka, Uganda. In 2014, this was a dream, by 2018 the library room had been built and painted with pictures and inspirational words.
Nine people signed up from Church of the Angels in Pasadena, California to go to Uganda on their Christmas break to fill the beautiful empty room with a library.
Nothing goes as planned, and this huge undertaking was no exception, but with serious help from God and under the temporal leadership of Ronnie Nalera, the container was finally released from customs, trucked over a rutted dirt road to Suubi and lifted with a gigantic crane into position.
The next morning the physical work began. The team and the principal, teachers and staff of Suubi School and the Suubi Clinic began the task of emptying the container, and carrying the boxes, shelves and furnishings up a dirt hill and two flights of stairs to the far corner of Suubi Christian Primary School!
The teachers then got their first lessons in constructing what seemed like hundreds of bookshelves from Ikea! And then there were tables and chairs and stools to put together and only one screwdriver and two pocket knives. Everyone was amazingly productive.
The end of phase I saw all of the shelves and most of the library furnishings set up according to the blue prints, boxes of books were staged in two different classrooms and seemingly hundreds of empty boxes were taken out of the library proper.
Bethany Ross, some teachers and I spent a week putting the furnishings into the space according to the blueprint that Bethany had drawn up on a different continent, four months before. When the bookcases were arranged and the tables and chairs were put into place, the huge work of unpacking and shelving 10,000 books began.
This library was enormous and no one really believed that Suubi had all of these books.
When the library was as put together as we could make it, we were ready to introduce all of the sections to the teachers and to work with them so that they could use the library in their lessons.
Bethany and I spent a week working with the teachers and staff on how a library is organized. For everything we taught, we gave the teachers the reason behind the teaching and time to practice. As they practiced, they became more familiar with the books in the library and more familiar with the teaching techniques we were hoping they would use with their students.
The first presentation of the library to the Suubi community, the teachers, staff and students was complete. Bethany and I returned to our homes on separate coasts of the United States. But we have every intention of returning and walking the red dirt roads alongside the administration, teachers, staff and students of Suubi School.
God has blessed the work of our hands and I can’t tell you what a privilege it has been to say to our Lord, “Here I am, send me.”
This library stands as a testament to the hard work and generosity of the members and friends of Church of the Angels in Pasadena, California.
And because of the vision, dedication & leadership of Tracy Gaestel.
If you’d like to get involved but don’t know where to start, consider becoming an advocate for Global Hands of Hope. We’d love to connect with you!