By Larisa Akah, Contributor
Three UNO students went to Washington University in St. Louis for the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) from April 5 to April 7. The international conference brought together university students from around the world to meet with former President Bill Clinton amongst other global leaders, entrepreneurs and philanthropists to “turn ideas into actions.”
Students applied to the CGIU with would-be or ongoing projects that can effect positive change. If accepted, they are provided with a great support network and, to some, finances.
UNO students, Benadette Ngamelue, Sister Rosemary Arrah HHCJ and Larisa Akah, brought “Readingdrive” to CGIU. Their goal is to transform an empty classroom into a working library in St. Joseph Elementary School in Mamfe, Cameroon in Africa. They will furnish the library with everything from chairs to books and bookshelves.
Primary schools in Cameroon don’t have libraries and, if they do, they are barely functional. To encourage early literacy, the initiative will train teachers to engage their students in more literary activities to spur creativity, encourage a love for reading and breed a reading culture in Cameroon. Building fundamental reading skills early will go a long way in facilitating students’ educational careers far into college and beyond.
“In reading, the children can travel without actually travelling,” Ngamelue said. They can explore different worlds, expand their horizons and delve into unfamiliar territory just sitting down.
“The ‘Readingdrive’ is important for Cameroon and for Africa because it will change how children learn and access quality education in a literacy-rich environment,” said Arrah, the main brain behind the project.
With mentorship from Wendy Loewenstein at the College of Education and fervent financial and moral support from UNO’s administration, the three attended the Clinton Global conference hosted by Clinton; his daughter, Chelsea; Stephen Colbert; and other public figures. Though physically exhausting, it was inspirational and mentally energizing. Students who want to know more about attending the CGIU can visit their website at cgiu.org or contact any member of the “Readingdrive” team.
In 2012, a book drive coordinated by Loewenstein, William Austin, Arrah and members of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and other donors collected more than 6,000 books at UNO. Opportunity Education in Omaha helped ship the books to Cameroon.
Donating time, money and books are all ways to get involved in the cause.
The three will take a trip to Cameroon in May. Richard Laye, a senior at UNO, was captivated by the potential and impact of this project on the lives of young Cameroonian students and recently got on board.
At CGIU, more than 1,000 students represented 300 universities and 75 countries around the world with the single goal of “creating a better future.” The life-changing experience left the students ready to fulfill their dream of building a library in Mamfe, Cameroon.