Sylvan Lake library director Caroline Vandriel is pictured with a teacher in the community school in Ogooma, Uganda. Photos courtesy of T.O.U.C.H Ministries’ Facebook

Sylvan Lake woman spreads love of reading to Africa

Library Director Caroline Vandriel recently returned from Uganda where she helped build a library

Sylvan Lake’s Caroline Vandriel has spread her passion for reading and libraries in Uganda.

The director of Sylvan Lake Municipal Library was among about 20 Canadians who travelled to Uganda with T.O.U.C.H. Ministries. There, the group worked on updating a school and providing health care to a small community in the eastern part of the country.

Vandriel spent her time preparing the library in Ogooma for the next semester of school.

“The library was built and there were shelves already… so we were cataloguing the books and putting everything in order,” Vandriel said.

The shelves were a little rickety, she noted, and swayed with a light touch without any books stacked on them.

Vandriel said she worked with a few others to set up the library and to train the school’s teachers how to run it. They worked in a small room with tables stacked with books.

“The kids were fascinated… They would stand outside and watch us through the window,” said Vandriel.

Many of the books in the library are for use in the classrooms. Vandriel said the teachers preferred having the textbooks come from the library when needed.

Though she didn’t think most children would be interested in reading textbooks, she said she was shocked by how much they wanted to read.

“I saw kids just pick up a random book from a basket and sit down to read. These are books that I never expected any kid to want to read just because.”

Vandriel said the want and love of reading in the small community was surprising.

While she was there, Vandriel held two read-a-longs for the school and community. The results astonished her.

Each session had more children present than she expected. The largest had around 400 listening to her read a story.

“It was jam-packed. There were kids sitting in each other’s laps and anywhere there was remotely any space,” she said.

The trip to Uganda opened her eyes to how good life is at home, said Vandriel.

One of her favourite parts of the trip was enjoying a hot shower with steady water pressure. She said it showed her how much is taken for granted.

“I used to think our library here was small, but now it feels gigantic.”

She hopes to return to the school in the future to see how the library has progressed.

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