Dinosaurs, at last

On Tuesday, December 6th the Chateaubelair Methodist School held a ceremony to commemorate the opening of the new school library. Our APCD Mr. Cool – my neighbor, who once worked as a teacher at the school – gave remarks on the importance of reading and literacy, and how he has made sure that this school has received continued support from the Peace Corps. Our school’s principal thanked everyone who has been involved in ensuring this library project turned out to be a success – from the Ministry of Education to Hands Across the Sea and those generous folks at ACE for donating paint. The assembly program also included performances by the Student Librarians, and a “prezi-ntation” that documented the library’s development through photos and information about joining the library.

The opportunity to witness and have a hand in the development of this project has been a truly humbling cornerstone of my service. I recall first seeing the space that had been designated to be the new library. Filled with broken benches, desks and chairs, old books, and covered in dust and cobwebs, the thought of transforming this abandoned classroom into a functional library unearthed all kinds of insecurities and self-doubts about not being able to deliver. My predecessor, Stephanie, had organized a donation of over 40 boxes of books that she had shipped to St. Vincent from Arizona. There were days early on when I would retreat to this room, a flood of emotions as I navigated the unchartered waters of my new developing life as a PCV. Some days I would sit alone in the library, pressing the school stamp into the books one at a time, with tears streaming down my face, wondering if and when I would actually see the day this lonely space would be turned into one filled with life and books and children.

“Miss Camille, when the library gwaan open?” children would ask me each day I arrived at school. Their anticipation kept me going and I promised myself I wouldn’t disappoint their innocent and hopeful faces.

I began to realize that the amount of support I was receiving was directly correlated with the amount of energy I put into this work. Students began offering help – unsolicited! –  sacrificing their break times to stamp and color code books, move furniture, and clear away dust and cobwebs off of the old bookshelves. Parents started showing up spending hours organizing the library with me and Carla, the government intern who has been a Godsend through the final phases of completing the library space. Teachers raised funds to purchase the linoleum for the floor and contributed their input about how the library should be run. And the Principal served as an invaluable guidepost for how to get things done.

The library now houses over 1500 books, from encyclopedias to adult fiction to pre-K picture books, and plenty of art supplies to assist in encouraging creative teaching in the classrooms. One student told me “I like the school library because we can learn things out of the books, like about dinosaurs at last.”

Before

After

The resourcefulness of everyone who assisted in this project has been an important lesson for me. I’ve learned and seen firsthand how the inherent creativity of my colleagues, neighbors, and students have helped to synthesize this remarkable accomplishment. My role in all of it was to merely serve as a catalyst; enabling and working alongside those around me to create this space in service to our community in a collaborative labor of love.

And now we can all read and learn about dinosaurs at last, just in time for Christmas.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Harriet Linskey
    Dec 13, 2011 @ 15:48:32

    Camille:
    What a delightful blog entry. Thanks so much for sharing. The library looks amazing. We too wondered about the amount of work that had to be done when we visited in January. You and your team of helpers have created a beautiful space and what an amazing gift you have created for the children of Chateaubelair Methodist Primary School.

    Reply

  2. Tom Linskey
    Dec 13, 2011 @ 23:12:14

    Truly an awesome job! Congrats to Camille and all of the staff at Chateaubelair Methodist Primary. You are an inspiration to everyone who wants to turn an empty room into a place where dreams come true for children. And grownups, too!

    Well done. Have a great holiday season. Your library will work its magic for many, many children.

    Reply

  3. Chateau King
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 13:21:23

    Better than my local library, which has just been closed down! What a fantastic project and incredible resilience to take it through from a wreck to a real legacy.

    Reply

  4. Wes Alexander
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 14:37:41

    This is amazing! What an awesome experience to even read through! I can only begin to imagine the creativity involved in taking this on. Just wanted to say congrats.

    Reply

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