Our exciting last day

It was an early morning yesterday in order to make it to Ekunzemulunda in time for the start of the school day to finish off the library. Sadly, this is our last day!

We had such a fantastic timlast day 1e interacting with the learners; we read to them, and them to us. Their excitement as we showed a grade 6 class some of their new books was infectious, and we can’t wait for the school to benefit from the books.

A particular favourite moment was making a cardboard dinosaur and puzzle with the class. The dinosaur came with little instruction and we spent a long time puzzling over the various parts! However the end result was an excellent T-rex and definitely worthwhile.

After lunch, we headed to Ebendle to install a similar library system and bring books. The operation was going smoothly when disaster struck! A bracket off one of the shelves fell off the wall and over 100 fiction books arranged in alphabetical order cascaded onto the floor, undoing oulast day 2r previous work. We discoered that the 2 shelves that had been previously installed were rotten, and instead had to use the shelves that Proph had installed and we improvised using 2 low tables as further shelves.

We had a great time visiting some of the grades in their classrooms, reading Hairlast day 4y Mclairy (Bella’s favourite) and taking selfies with everyone.

We had the pleasure of meeting Dr Devan Singh from the KwaZulu-natal Department of Education, and we thank him for his time and generous offer to install Microsoft Office packages ilast day 4n the 10 laptops we donated to Ramlakan. We are so excited that we have taken a step forwards with the laptops and that they can be incorporated further into the learners’ curriculum.



Future Library: Our dream

Our dream when we first set out almost 2 years ago was to build a standalone library, where the whole community would benefit. We can now say that the project is officially underway!

Today we visited a potential site, next to the Tribal Court in Macambini and opposite an existing community centre and football field. This is incredibly advantageous as the site is in the centre of the community. However the site was more than we could have imagined. There is already an existing derelict building, which was abandoned midway through construction which we can absorb into our design. The building needs a bit of fixing up; paint, electricity, flooring, shelving and furniture, but the former is much less expensive than building a whole new structure.

Even better than the preexisting building, we were privileged with a visit from the tribal chief to inquire about the site and obtain his permission to build on the site. The Chief was enthusiastic about education and commented that he wants his people to improve their english and the children can use the resources to complete the research component of their curriculum. He has also agreed that we could use the communities electricity source, and the site will be secured as soon as possible.

We are incredibly grateful to the Chief, and cannot express how excited we are to begin the project!

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The main aim of today was to bring half of the 15 boxes of books to Ekunzemalunda Primary School in Macambini. Ekunzemalunda has approximately 350 learners and virtually no reading resources.

We spent a large bulk of time organising the books to forma  similar library system to the one we set up in Ramlakan. Our system is advantageous because it allows us to inventory all the books in the library, organise them into categories using colours and with the fiction, in alphabetical order. As the schools receive more books, they can easily add the new additions into the book log.

EkunzeIMG_1755malunda received approximately 450 high quality fiction books and 200 non-fiction. There were so many books that we had trouble sorting them all in just one day, and will continue this process tomorrow. Helping us set up the system was the teacher who would be responsible for the library when we leave and Sean gave up his valuable time to put up shelves, for which we are very grateful for.

The school does not have it’s own stand alone library building, so we set up shelving in the schools admin office. The books will be taken from the library to the classrooms during the day for lessons, but to ensure that they all return safely, the books will not leave the school. This is slightly different to Ramlakan, where the books do not leave the library, but still a model that ensures security of the books.

It was so lovely to interact with the teachers and we even made a friend by the end of the day! We are hugely grateful to the Principal for so generously welcoming us into his beautiful school.

Fantastic Mr Fox and etc…

St Christopher’s primary school: We took the opportunity to leVersion 2arn further details about the Red Cap foundation which St Christopher’s is a part of.

Under this they benefit from a large amount of learning materials and extra tuition in drama, art, music and dance, which is otherwise not included in the curriculum. A particular interest of ours was their tablets project, other technology and storage of their collection of books.
The book storage units were designed by
he foundation and are not only mobile but also secure. The foundation maintains the schools’ large collection of computers and ensures that they are used to their maximum potential through learning schemes via Youtube. One of the main roles of thIMG_1681e foundation has been bringing a tablet scheme; providing the tablets, learning software and means
of secure storage.

The software on the tablets is transferable onto the laptops we brought to Ramlakan last year, therefore our next step at Ramlakan is to find a means of securing the soft
ware for their use. We also found the storage boxes that the tablets were housed in particularly innovative. The foundation has designed and manufactured the boxes themselves so that they are light and therefore able to be moved from classroom to classroom. They are also fitted with charging cables so each tablet can be charged overnight. We hope to be able to transfer this design to sIMG_1708ome-thing we can store the laptops in
at Ramlakan.

A particular joy for us was to visit a grade 7 class and read Fantastic Mr Fox with them! It was amazing for us to interact with the children on such a whistle-stop visit!
We returned to our beloved Ramlakan primary school today to see what progress has bee
n made, and we are so proud of the was Ms Kaunda has taken such good care of the library and of the improvements in the learners’ literacy skills.

We were treated to an incredible showcase of poems and reading from Grade R all the way to Grade 7, and their skills blew us away.

We are very excited that a teacher at Ramlakan has undertaken a librarian-training course and is now taking a lead role in organizing the library. Ramlakan has also started to secure a few books from the local Municipal, now that they have the facility for them.IMG_1718

We would like to say a massive thank you to Ms. Kaunda for her hospitality, and we hope to visit you again soon!


Now we look forward to starting our project Macambeni; to build a library-cum-community centre in the next 2 years. Jump-starting this, we had the pleasure of speaking to Nkonzo Mhlongo who works in building up the infrastructure in local rural communities. We are looking forward to collaborating with her in bringing materials in the form of books to this area.

(Thankfully the 500kg of books we brought with us have been cleared from customs as of this morning!)

Back again!

We arrived in Durban earlier today and are super excited to get started on everything that we have planned.
This visit is focusing on spreading and introducing the project to more schools with the intent to create a longstanding friendship of support. If all goes to plan, we could be looking at building a community centre/library in 2017 between Ebendle Primary School and Enkunzemulunga Primary School. For this we will bestarting a large fundraising campaign in the near future.

We are visiting St Christopher’s primary school, who have a collection of tablet . The software for these tablets, and other supportive initiatives like sports teams and extracurricular activities, is provided by the MRP foundation, whose model we hope to learn lots from.

We also hope to return to the lovely Ramlakan Primary school to bring further books and find out how the library is functioning a year on.

We have arrived with 15 boxes of books! The main bulk of these will go towards Ebendle and Enkunzemelunga, who do not have a prebuilt library, so our first step will be providing the books a home for the short term. This will either be in secure shelving in teachers offices or a mobile ‘library box’, which will allow the learners to use the books even though they lack the facility to house them. The next step would be to house the books from both schools in a shared community library.

We are very excited and looking forwards to the next couple of days…

Home Bound.

Our amazing 3 days in South Africa have come to an end, and while we are in need of a good nights sleep in our own beds, we couldn’t be happier. A gigaIMG_1983ntic thank you to Cara for looking after us and helping us (you are eternally lovely), and to the donators of the books which has made all of this possible.

The books and laptops, which have previously cluttered our parents’ hallways, have found new IMG_2456homes at last! After our two days at Ramlakan, we made a stop at a nursery in a township near Durban. The building was filled with smiling children aged 1-6, who were delighted with our impromptu appearance. We dropped off a few boxes of books filled with age appropriate picture books in both English and Zulu for the teachers to read to the children. The books will become part of the nursery’s new reading program when it starts up in the near future.

Although we were only at the nursery for a short time, the children were quick to warm and swarms of little girls were giving us play phonesIMG_2454, babies and little plastic teacups. During their break, a game of tire racing ensued accompanied with squeals of delight. We can’t tell if the teachers were tearing their hair out after we riled them up so much!

IMG_1977 All packed up and preparing for the 12 hour plane journey back home, we can soundly say that we’ve had an incredible time and we hope to return soon!

The next steps will be more focused on fundraising, so please keep donating and we’ll keep you posted!

The Unveiling…

The 10 laptops were donated by Y.P.O, Sean, Rick and the Team, and we are eternally grateful to them, as are the children and staff of Ramlakan Primary. Not onlyIMG_2408 had the school been neglected in government funding, it had also lost students to the larger school some miles away as they had 6 tablets on site. In hope of a better education in technology, something which is now essential in the workplace, children would walk over an hour to reach the alternative school. Now Ramlakan has laptops, more students will be attracted, and hopefully with that it will be put on the map and receive more attention from the government.

The school now has one of the strongest libraries in the area and a huge amount IMG_2412of computers, meaning that they can qualify for a lbrarian-cum-computer teacher who is trained to use softwares which we are hoping to install. This ensures that all the children coming to Ramlakan will make the most of the resources there.

The afternoon was spent with a group of 10 grade 6-7 students, and although there was no wireless network or softwares installed, we introduced ‘Wordpad’ to them. It is difficult to explain what it’s like to see something that has been so familiar all your life become such a mystery to people at the equivalent age. It wasn’t just the students that struggled to use the keyboard and manoeuvre the mouse, the majority of the teachers were at loss as well. We did our best to show the children and the teachers the basics, but it highlighted how imperative a trained computer teacher is to the program.

Most children had never used a laptop before. A lucky one, 16 year old Mthokozisi had used his parents laptop before, and typed out his name, schooIMG_2395l and favourite football team in bright green to the glee of his friends, who instantly wanted to learn how to do that too.Mthokozisi wants to be an engineer when he’s older, and hopes to join the one alumni of the school to reach tertiary education. We hope that with the laptops, and the use of the books, he and many others will achieve this.
Being a library with so many books, relevant to all ages, we are hoping that it IMG_2383will become a resource for the older children at St Christophers High School as an after school program. This will give them a safe and quiet place away from the streets and the alcohol problem among teens.

This was our last day in Ramlakan. Although brief, the experience was eye-opening, amazing fun and unforgettable. So much has been achieved in the space of two days, and we are only more passionate about continuing this in the future.

IMG_2381We hope to visit the school in a years time to see how the program has been implemented, but judging by the enthusiasm the arrival of the books received, there is no doubt that this will be life-changing.

Bookmark Morning Mania!

Our second morning in South Africa was better spent than the previous, waking up with plenty of time to spare and think about the new systems we would put in place at Ramlakan. We rose to beautiful weather once again, blessed with hot sun and clear skies, this was a privilege for us, being used to the grey drizzle of the UK!

We had big plans for the day ahead, including our new bookmark scheme and library cards. As we pulled into the school, the children were standing in line to receive their one government funded meal for the day. We are told that this is the only proper sustenance some children eat all day, their families not being able to provide for all of their children. Altough Ramlakan is a state funded school, it is obvious that government input is only to cover the bare minimal.

Mrs Kaunda tells us that she tries to buy at least one or two books for the children out of her own salary.  Even so, most books are so overused that their pages are falling out. We are thankful that the school has a room allocated to be the library, it is in a building with two other classrooms; the computer lab and the science room. When we arrived yesterday, both rooms were heartbreakingly empty. We are told that thIMG_1931e block was built with money donated by a successful former student, an amazing contribution, but unfortunately it has turned into something of a ‘white elephant’, the school being without adequate staffing or funds to fill the rooms. Now, with the books and the computers, we have filled two of these
rooms, finally putting them to use, expanding the school and hopefully the children’s education.

The shelves are now filled, and we have a total of 900+ books! They range from Miffy, to Children’s Brittania, DK encyclopaedias and Horrid Henry. A huge thank you to anyone who contributed, and as the project will expand in the future, anyone with books to donate can please email us (address is in the ‘contact us’ menu).

The concept of a bookmark, something so familiar and intuitive to us, was completely foreign to the learners. As each class came in for their session, we had to explain, through the translation of a teacher, what a bookmark is and how to use it. Even so, they were hesitant and marginally confused with the blank strips of paper in front of them, and we had to do a few demonstrations….

Although everyone had brought their own chewed biros, we supplied them with an array of sharpies and coloured pens. Once these were revealed, the once reserved children leaped forward to snatch their favourite colour. Names were written, footballs were drawn and some children coloured the whole thing in neon highlighters. Soon they were ready for lamination, using a newly donated laminator we had sourced earlier in the week.

The room was teaming with children running around the tables, bright bookmarks flapping in the air as they rushed to pick a book from the shelves. Each child chose the first book that they would read, which they placed their bookmark in. The book was then given to the tIMG_1934eacher who logged it in the children book log. The children book log is a box in which each student has an individual card, and the book they are reading at that time is written on it. This book is effectively ‘checked out’ although it never leaves the room, it is placed on the child’s allocated grade shelf. When the child has finished reading the book, it is ticked off on the card, and the book is put back on its original shelf.

We have now created our first library system! Please keep donating on the ‘donate’ button, and get in touch if you have any books for the future!


Ramlakan School…

It seems we couldn’t start the day without some kind of panic, having woken at 9:15 when we were being picked up 15 minutes later. Who can blame us…

The books were packed up in the boot of Cara’s car, ready for a new home. We arrived at Ramlakan Primary School, driving through what seemed to be a ghost town to reach it, where the children had already walked many miles and participated in lessons for hours before we appeared.
Our welcome was extra-ordinairy. The children and teachers had prepared a showcase of singing, reading and dancing, and our participation was required… The array of talent was eye opening, and the principal,Ms Kaunda, is very proud of her learners. In the history of the school, only one of the former pupils has attended univerIMG_2327sity, but Ms Kaunda strives for
Ramlakan to be a centre of excellence and her efforts arevery obvious. She hopes that, with the new library, her children will be given opportunity to read and learn.

The feat of moving the books into the room that will be the library was made seamless by the help of the
boys from grades 4-6 and the four members of staff: Ms Manyoni, Ms Ngcaweni, MsIMG_2345
Mbokazi and Ms Blose. We enlisted ten lovely students to help us for the day, their first task being to collect 26 rocks for each letter of the alphabet, these were to be book ends for the fiction section. Posters were made for the non-fiction books, which were duly labelled by the colour key we had created.

The great liberation libraries stamp was unveiled! The girls sorting the fiction bIMG_2282ooks quickly got to work stamping the books and arranging them on the shelves and they did a wonderful job. Although there was much to be done, we couldn’t deny the kids from a quick peek at books which they were interested
in. The unpacking of the science box was soon surrounded by a cluster of keen readers who marvelled at the 3D ‘Body’ book and pictures.

The itinerary for tomorrow includes further organising, bookmark making and the donating of the laptops.

As a final note, the donate button on the site has now been activated.

Hello South Africa!

We have finally arrived, after much drama! Having rushed into Heathrow Airport with 6 bags of books and lots of excitement, we were greeted with devastating news at check in: the affidavits needed for children to travel into the country were not all correct…

Thankfully, the problem was only a case of mixed up last names and was resolved after half an hour. A big thank you to the lady at the check in desk who was so good-humoured and patient! With no time to spare, we sprinted through the airport at breakneck speed, barely stopping to stuff some pre-emptive dinner down (even though it was only 5pm) and finally boarded the plane. At long last, we’d finally made it past the first step!

Despite the flight being a 11 hour overnighter, it went very smoothly and we tried to get as much sleep as possible! The wonderful BA crew were very interested in finding out about our trip, and once we touched down in Johannesburg, one of the stewardesses found us at the baggage carousel and kindly gifted us BA kids bags.

Our journey was not yet over! We then headed for our domestic flight from Johannesburg to Durban.  It was another case of sprinting through the building to get to the plane. Finally allowed to relax…slightly, we settled into our seats for what was the last leg of our journey.


Then the hard work began…
Landing in Durban, we were whisked away by the lovely Cara to get straight down to work. Without a moment to chill after the flights, we spent the day logging, categorising and labelling the first batch of books – the fiction ones. Finally clocking off at 6pm, we were practically keeling over with exhaustion. But we felt we’d achieved something.

At the end of the day we had logged 375 fiction books (all handwritten!) andIMG_1868 labelled nearly as many. We also categorised the non fiction books into 7 groups and prepared for the next day at Ramlakan Primary School. We are so excited for tomorrow!!


Now we need some sleep!IMG_1877