Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Kufor Ni'Ameh, a Model Community

I've no doubt Kufor Ni'Ameh has the usual assortment of conflicts and unsolved problems every community has, but it is also a village that is doing a lot right. We came to visit the recently established Seraj Library Project, presently housed in an existing facility, and found it bursting with energy. There were at least 30 children reading at tables when we arrived. Two volunteers oversaw the happy confusion, moving from child to child, helping with words, answering questions, praising the work of each. From another volunteer, a teacher himself and textbook author, we learned that the community began a Children's Club in 1995, including summer camps, reading, tutoring and physical education. And lots of fun. Two volunteers, both highly skilled and delightfully animated, were Club alumni, returning now to give back what they received. The Club had recently instituted a program called "My Father Reads to Me", and this week was the mayor's turn (himself a father of five). We watched as kids gathered around him and he began reading from a book they all seemed to be enjoying. Later, one of the volunteers who had university training but who was also a "natural" teacher led the children through another book, calling individual children up to read one at a time. Since it was all in Arabic, we understood nothing but that these children were loved and having a splendid time learning to read. This was a master teacher at work/play.

Just across the street from the older facility, temporarily housing the library, a new community center is under construction. The library will be located on the first floor in a room bathed in light. There is a large room upstairs for community gatherings, film nights, and other activities. A passageway has been built under the road from the new building to a garden and playground which would be the envy of any American city. I have no idea how the mayor and community leaders found the vision to make this such a child-friendly community, but from the many happy faces we saw, they are clearly succeeding.

The proposal for a Seraj library in Kufor Ni'Ameh came from someone in the PA's Ministry of Planning office where Estephan also works. Because it is centrally located, Kufor Ni'Ameh draws children from ten neighboring villages. And because so much community development has preceded it, the library has taken off like a rocket. What it shows us, though, is that the 3,000 books we have already delivered is nowhere near enough, nor will the 5,000 we plan to deliver be enough either. This library will put all the books we can deliver to good use - as well as a computer, a large screen and the equipment for good quality projection. They have the space, the interest and the organization. All they need is the equipment.

The Seraj Library Project's goal is to create children's libraries in five villages clustered in the Ramallah area. We may well reach that goal within just a few years. Then our task will be to help develop each of these libraries with more books, equipment and, most importantly, the programs which make reading fun. The talented people of Kufor Ni'Ameh have already offered to become consultants for the other libraries.

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