Lotofaga Village, Upolu Island
After swearing in as a Peace Corps Volunteer on August 25, 2008, I moved to the village of Lotofaga (low-toe-fah-nga) on the southeastern coast of the island of Upolu. School leaders and teachers expressed a keen interest in improving their library program, which when I arrived was little more than a locked broom closet with some old, dusty books.
Through a program under the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture (MESC), I arranged for library-teacher trainees to visit our school for day and help revitalize the library by tidying the room and organizing and labeling books.
After our visit from MESC, I went back to the school and the principal told me she'd forgotten about some old books in the store room. I was expecting a few old textbooks, but in fact, they had stored away four huge boxes of books donated by a Mormon church in the U.S.
So another teacher, a group of students and I came in over a holiday break to sort and label all the other books. My student helpers were amazing. I thought for sure the project would take weeks to complete, but we finished it in a few days. I actually had more students show up each day to help out. They watched me intently as I labeled and organized books, and we created a kind of assembly line.
In the process, the students learned all about books (title and author, fiction versus non-fiction) and the library was organized. Perhaps even more important than the practical knowledge they gained, though, was the ownership in the project. A Peace Corps volunteer hadn't come in and given them a library, they'd created it themselves.