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Children’s Books Needed in African Island Village
Written by Vic Attardo, Special Contributor

Local journalist Vic Attardo has been published in many hunting and fishing publications for many years since serving as editor of the Town and Country newspaper.  On a recent trip to Africa, he became aware of a need in an isolated part of Namibia and has taken the initiative to do something about it.  This is his story, and we are proud to help him.


         In one of life's crookeder turns, what started as a fishing and wildlife safari in southern Africa has turned into a small crusade to find and transport English-written books to school children in Namibia.

        Along with my daughter, Cheryl McCarthy, I witnessed the sore need for English language books for an island school in the Chobe-Zambezi river plains.

        The school, located on dirt and scrub land, hosts some two hundred children,

many of whom are the sons and daughters of island fisherfolk and cattle herders. Many parents live in small, grass-roofed huts along the rivers and commonly fish for a living or manage free-roaming cattle. The children are transported by canoes, called, mukoros, or in outboard-powered crafts from the river-front villages to the Impalila Island school and other boarding schools on the Botswana and Namibia mainlands. They arrive on a Monday morning and may stay at school the entire week, sometimes sleeping in small tents the size we'd take on a camping trip to a state park; then return by boat to their parents' villages on the weekend.

        The children at the Impalila Island school which consists of three split-wing buildings built of long flat bricks and metal roofs have an inherent thirst for knowledge and are studying English beyond their native language of Sobeeah, a beautiful tongue with soft consonants and softer vowels.  

        English is an official national language in Namibia and while their education is supported by the government the children, ages about six or seven to about ten or eleven, have a great need for English-books to help them learn. Many of the island's adults speak perfect English with a gentle African accent, a product of this education.

        As Cheryl and I visited one of the island's inland villages and a collection of ramshackle huts, the children were taking classes. Part of me wanted to walk in and see the school but the better part cautioned to let the children continue their studies, besides I had already met a number of children on the island's dirt roads and in public places and sensed their spirit.

        When I asked adults what the kids needed most, the collective answer was English books, those with an educational theme, and for some reason "crayons," but I question if this stood for other writing utensils as well.

        My first inclination was to try and collect money for this effort but the fact is, even with money, there is no place to buy the targeted books.

        So with the help of the Upper Perkiomen Valley we would like to solicit for used children's books and most importantly the funds to transport these items. A ballpark figure from the post office revealed that to send 30 pounds of books would cost some $225, and thirty pounds of children's books is not many books.

        Larry Roeder the publisher of Town and Country has generously agreed to use his newspaper headquarters on Kutztown Road as a way station for this effort, holding the books and donations. If you wish to make a sizable monetary donation for overseas postage please include a return address in case we collect more cash than is needed.

        Once shipped it still may take several weeks for the school to receive the package(s) and then several more weeks, perhaps months for a return reply, if any. But we'll keep you posted.

        It's difficult to say what a measured and appropriate response would be to this need. We obviously can't send a shipping container of supplies to this African island. A few full boxes of books should do nicely.





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