New Adventure Starts This Week

In a couple days I will be leaving to go to Namibia again. This time I will be traveling with Marc and our 3 1/2 yr old fosterchild, Kaleb. Most people think we are crazy and we probably are, but we couldn't bring ourselves to leaving him behind. I can't wait to see his face when he has his first up close experience with an elephant or giraffe. The 14 hour plane ride should be an experience in itself with Kaleb!
When we arrive in Windhoek on May 15th, Rachel & her close friend Imms, and WorldTeach friend, Jen will be joining us for a week of travel through the south and west part of Namibia. We are renting a 4 X 4 truck with pop-up tent on the roof for camping.
Our projects in Ogongo are developing nicely. The Eyes for Ogongo project has received donations to sponsor 21 children for professional eye exams, and prescription glasses. We will be vision screening all 400+ kids at the school and identifying the most needy to be sponsored.
We will also be helping to make some improvements to the tiny kindergarten building. We have plans to build tables, bookshelves, install chalkboards, and brighten up the inside with some fresh paint. That should be a fun project.
The other plan is to use donation funds to take a group of the top learners from each grade on a camping trip to Etosha Wildlife Reserve. Most of the learners have never been to this fabulous park, eventhough it is less than 2 hours from Ogongo.
I will try to do an occaisional post while I am traveling, but internet access is limited. I will definitely post new pictures when I return in July and contact everyone that sponsored a child for vision care and glasses.

Special Thank You

I would like to send out a special thank you to Webster City High School for their continued support of the Ogongo Library Project. Rachel received over $700 in addition to all that the school had donated already in 2009! Webster City High School is awesome. We especially want to thank Rachel's fellow teachers, LuAnn and Amanda for their tremendous efforts.

Donation Update

Current Donations: $ 5200.00

Thank you to all that have supported the project.

New Project Ideas

Rachel has officially signed on for a second year teaching in Namibia! This also means that I will be able to come and work with her again next spring. We have been discussing plans for the focus during my stay which includes the help of my husband Marc for 1 week.
Just before leaving Ogongo last August, I was made aware that there was an independantly run kindergarten very close to the school. As you can see from the photo, they literally have nothing other than a set of plastic stacking chairs for the 24+ children that come to the small room for kindergarten. This is not part of the public education system so there is no support from the Ministry of Education. Parents pay what they can which goes to the teacher for her salary.
I would love to spend some of my energy helping improve the kindergarten facility.
The other project idea concerns the tremendous need for improved vision care and the purchase of eye glasses for those that need them the most. We would like to organize a vision screening for all the children at Ogongo Combined School and help those most in need to obtain glasses.
I will keep you posted on these plans. If anyone has any suggestions or can direct me to new resources, please contact me.

Microscopes Donated!

Sparta Cadet Troop 264 donated funds to purchase 2 brand new microscopes to be delivered to Ogongo school this week. One of the items that many teachers from the school put on their "wish list" was microscopes and science DVD's. The scouts also purchased the complete set of the Planet Earth Series, Discovery Channel- The Universe, Man Vs Wild (in the African desert), and episodes of Sid the Science Kid for the the younger learners. All of these items will be a wonderful surprise for the school and greatly appreciated. Rachel has friends visiting her from Wisconsin this week and the wonderful gifts will be hand delivered to the school.

In Memory of Aaron Eilerts - Webster City Donation

I recently received a donation check for over $400 from Webster City High School! I was not expecting such a wonderful surprise in addition to all the school supplies and books that had already been shipped from Webster City. A special thank you to Amanda Hadley and all those who helped the fundraising efforts by donating school supplies, books and money.
The donation is heart felt in the memory of Aaron Eilerts, a young boy scout from Eagle Grove, Iowa who lost his life last summer in a tornado, while camping. The children of Ogongo School thank you.

New Olivetti Copy Machine

Back in the U.S.

I arrived home to Sparta yesterday afternoon. It was very difficult to leave Rachel and the school in Ogongo. My ten weeks in Namibia went so quickly. I will miss everyone, especially the learners. I had at least 50 hand written notes from learners, saying goodbye and thanking me for the library. I will pass some of them on to all of you that have contributed to the project. My visit to Namibia and Ogongo school was such an enriching experience, giving me memories that I will cherish forever. I know I will return someday.
It was also very nice to return to Wisconsin and see the color green in the landscape! It feels good to be home and I look forward to reconnecting with friends and family. I have many stories to share.

Ogongo Library Project Purchases

There are only a few days before I have to leave Ogongo. I feel very good about what I was able to accomplish during my stay. It is reassuring that Rachel will still be here to oversee things at the library, at least until December. She is probably going to extent for another year as well, which means I may be able to come back again! I want to give everyone an update on how your contributions were used up to this point. Our original plan to actually build a new building had to be revise several weeks after I arrived. The cost was much more than we anticipated for new construction. Fortunately, our alternative plan worked out quite nicely and we were able to establish a wonderful space for the library in the same room as the recently recieved computers. Eventually a larger space for the library will be needed, but for now, it works quite well.
If Rachel does extend for another year at the school she is hoping to only teach computer skills to learners and teachers, and be in charge of the library. I know she will take good care of all that has been accomplished there.
Following is a list of what has been purchased for the library and Ogongo School:
Photo Copy Machine - $1050.00 (something that was greatly needed by the teachers)
2 Rugs - $ 130.00
Fabric for Computer covers - $ 50.00
Fencing for New Classrooms -$ 675.00 (new classrooms could not be used without a fence)
Electricity for the Library - $ 400.00 (pays for electricity thru December 2009)
13 Dictionaries - $ 175.00 (10 regular, 1 Science, 1 Physics, 1 Chemistry)
Globe - $ 75.00 (in the library and for use by teachers)
2 Large Maps - $ 65.00 (high quality laminated for the S.Studies teachers)
Library supplies - $ 50.00 (tape for book labels, card stock paper, etc.)
Recreational Balls - $ 75.00 (2 soccer balls, 1 netball, 2 P.E. balls, 4 balls for gr.1-4)
18 Big Books for Primary Grades
Teacher resource materials for math & science
15 Laminated Math & Science Posters

Thank you again for all your support.
7/18 Today Rachel was preparing for an art lesson with paper mache. We had all the paste mixed (flour & water) and ready in several bowls outside the classroom. When the learners came to start their project, one group said that their bowl was almost empty. Apparently a stray dog had come and decided to have a little snack and drank all the paper mache paste! We also had several learners that felt a need to taste the paste. We filled the paper mache "shakers" with dry beans and many of the kids weren't quite sure about putting something you could eat into a musical instrument. We told them they could open them when they got them home and eat the beans if they wanted to.

Grand Opening!

Our grand opening of the library started on Monday, July 6th and has continued for 2 weeks! The learners were sooo... excited to say the least. It was wonderful to see how amazed they were about some of the smallest things. They loved the new rugs. I am not sure any of them had ever sat on a rug before! The idea of sitting or laying on the rug to read was really a new experience for most of them. The first week each class (14 of them) had an opportunity to spend time in the library just looking at books and seeing all the posters, maps, and banners that decorated the walls. Most of their classrooms have nothing on the walls, other than peeling paint. For grades 1-7, Rachel or I read a story outloud, before giving them time to browse the books. Of course, for the younger grades, 1-4, their teachers had to translate a lot while I was reading, but they still really seemed to enjoy it. Every learner received a new pencil and a "sweet" when they left.
This week, we had grades 5-11 come in again, this time to check out a book for the first time; something some of them had never done before. The shelves were quite full at the beginning of the week, but now, almost 300 books have been borrowed by the learners. We will have to continue to work on increasing the library collection. Grades 1-4 will not be allowed to borrow books until a later date, but each of the primary teachers will be assigned a library period once a week to bring in their classes after I am gone. The first book that I read to the young ones was Baby Beluga, and they even enjoyed my version of the song. It was an easy crowd.
I only have 6 more days here in Ogongo, then I am on my way back home. I am anxious to see everyone and share my experience with lots of pictures. See you soon!

Small Bits in Namibia

6/29 We have accomplished a lot, but still have so much to do! All the fiction books are on the shelves, ready to be used. It took some time to type borrower cards for over 500 books. I will now start preparing the non-fiction books, as well as reference books, and teacher resources. We have set the opening date for Monday July 6th. We will make an announcement at an all school assembly before the school day begins. We will arrange a schedule to allow each class time to come into the library and browse the books for the first time. It will be exciting. They have been waiting anxiously. The next week after the opening, we will start to allow learners to borrow books.
Rachel has been bringing in some classes to begin instruction on the computers and she will help me with doing some library orientation sessions.
6/19 I can't believe I have already been here for 5 weeks! Tremendous progress has been made on organizing the library, but there is still so much to be done. My goal is to officially open the library by July 1st. All of the 500+ donated books now have pockets inside them, thanks to my very helpful library assistants. Now I need to type all the borrower cards for each book. As I sit at the computer in the library typing, I always have an audience of learners peeking in the windows behind me. They are amazed at how quickly I can type on the keyboard. Rachel has started to bring in groups of learners to introduce them to the computers. Many of the learners don't even know how to use the mouse and are very tentative about using the computers. You can see the pride in their faces when they push the correct keys and the word processing program opens. There were many sounds of amazement when they learned how to change the size, style, and color of the font!

6/16 After an exciting 3 days in Etosha Wildlife Park, this week my plans are to record books, make cards, and finish preparing the donated books so that they can be made available to the learners. Everyday learners knock on the door of the library asking to come and see the books. I let them come in and look at books while they are there, but they are not ready to be borrowed yet. All the learners are very anxious!
After the amazing time Rachel and I had at Etosha Wildlife Park, we are brainstorming now trying to think of how we can organize a school field trip with some of the learners. Very few learners from Ogongo School have ever been to Etosha. It is such a shame! The $3.00 entrance fee is not affordable for them.

6/9 Today a great example of the hunger for reading material at Ogongo Combined School. The janitor came to the library to get some old newspapers to take to the pit toilets to use as toilet paper. A half an hour later, I look out the window to see two 4th grade learners leaving the toilets, each reading a page of the newspaper! I guess they have their priorities straight... Printed materials to read rather than wiping their butts!
Sparta Cadet Troop Has Raised Over $1000!

Introduction to the Project

My name is Heidi Tumerman and my daughter is Rachel Manley. We share a passion for teaching and for helping those in need. We recently embarked on quite an adventure together. Rachel has been teaching at Ogongo Combined School in Namibia, Africa, since the middle of Jannuary 2009. I am planning to join her in May 2009. She is absolutely loving her experience there so far, but it did not take long for her to realize the tremendous shortage of educational resources and the need for a usable school library.
In a school of approximately 500 students, teaching grades 1-11, there is no access to a library for the teachers or the students.
In the United States, availability of printed educational materials in the form of books is often taken for granted. We have access to computers and the internet to offer us an endless wealth of information about every subject imaginable. This is not the case in most rural schools in Namibia. Most children have not had the simple experience of choosing a book from a shelf and being allowed to check it out, and possibly even taking it home with them.
The official language of Namibia is English, and yet those children and adults that are able speak and read English is a minority. The children need books to encourage them to read and learn beyond their basic classroom lessons. They need access to literature to help them expand their minds beyond the walls of the school and their small village and give them an opportunity to increase their awareness of the world around them.
The cost of establishing a library space, furnish it with shelves, tables, chairs, library supplies and books, is beyond the currently limited resources of the school, but it is not beyond the resouces of two very determined women, Rachel and myself!
With the help of family, friends, and community, we believe this is a project of unmeasurable value and could significantly change the learning environment of Ogongo Combined School.