Vusumnotfo

Vusumnotfo - meaning "to restart the economy" - is a Swazi, Not-For-Profit, community training and support organization formed by eighteen chiefdoms in northern Swaziland. Our vision is that communities will be able and willing to improve their own social, economic, and environmental conditions. To build the human capacity needed to do so, Vusumnotfo's programming involves each of the community structures that touches the lives and development of children - the schools where they learn, the families where they grow, and the communities where they live. Using sustainable methods, Vusumnotfo's goal is to help communities, help their children, to reach their full developmental potent...
Nov 4, 2013

Ncamsile Motsa - inspiring teacher

Inspiring a love of reading
Inspiring a love of reading

Ncamsile Motsa is a preschool teacher in rural Swaziland, Southern Africa. Ncamsile is a passionate, dedicated educator who had no formal training as a teacher when she started training at Vusumnotfo. Ncamsile has always had the raw material she needs to be an amazing teacher. Now, after a year of intensive, in-service trainings she is gaining the skills she needs to back up her passion, dedication and love of children. Ncamsile has transformed her classroom, her schedule, and her approach to teaching.

The change in Ncamsile’s classroom becomes particularly clear at story time. A year ago story time wasn’t even on the program and Ncamsile rarely read to the kids. Now she uses her limited supply of books everyday. After recess all of the kids crowd around to hear Ncamsile energetically read, interpret, and act out a story. Ncamsile engages the students in the story and they excitedly jump up and thrust their hands in the air so that they can answer her questions.

Vusumnotfo’s philosophy is that the best way to teach reading is to inspire a love of books in children from an early age. When a child learns to love reading their world expands.  Ncamsile’s students have multiple chances to read throughout the day and they are beginning to treasure these times. Something magical has happened in Ncamsile’s classroom; reading has been transformed from a chore into a treat. Because of this Ncamsile’s students will have a huge advantage over their peers. They will be more likely to read, have better reading skills, have a broader knowledge base and are more likely to get jobs and attend university (Snow et al. 16)*.

Ncamsile’s story is typical for the teachers with whom Vusumnotfo works. Literacy rates are fairly high in Swaziland but reading for pleasure is extremely rare. Without this vital part of literacy most children never move past a basic competency with reading and never master reading to learn.

Vusumnotfo approaches this problem by helping rural preschool teachers develop a love a books and pass that on to their students. We teach storytelling, bilingual reading, and try to share our passion for books. Our level based approach meets each teacher at their starting point and helps them improve their teaching incrementally, giving all of our teachers the opportunity to become world-class educators.

None of the teachers that Vusumnotfo works with have a lot of resources. The walls of Ncamsile’s classroom, for example, are made mostly of cardboard and there is little space to move in the building because of the 20 some benches left there by the church that uses the building on weekends. Other teachers hold class on top of mountains, down roads that wash out every time it rains, or in buildings made of mud and sticks. None of the teachers are able to purchase toys, art supplies, or learning aids. However, all of the teachers are learning to see these limitations as assets. They use their limited resources to create, toys, books, and games. In doing so they are teaching their students that they do not have to be limited by circumstance or money and that anything is possible with a little ingenuity, some hard work, and a lot of creativity. These teachers are demonstrating that great teaching is not about money or resources. Great teaching is about skill and passion and the teachers have this by the boatload!

Swaziland faces a myriad of problems: the world’s highest rates of HIV, rampant unemployment, and gender inequality to name a few. The seeds of solutions to all of these problems lie in education and one of the keys to ensuring high quality education to at risk populations is inspiring a love of reading in the youngest of children.

Because of this and because we have already received a very generous donation of 5,000 ­­­­­­books from Books for Africa your donation will go directly out library and training programs. Your donation will help us further our training of teachers, create an inspiring library space, and support our teachers as they grow the readers and leaders of tomorrow.

*Snow, Catherine E., M. Susan Burns, Peg Griffin, eds. Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. Washington DC: National Academy Press, 1998. Print. 

I like books
I like books
Reading every day
Reading every day
Story time
Story time
Book Corner
Book Corner
Reading corner
Reading corner
Writing Practice
Writing Practice
Playing with blocks
Playing with blocks
Oct 7, 2013

Books and more books!

This is our goal!
This is our goal!

Our thousands of books have arrived and we’re thrilled (and buried!) They’ve gone through several sorts already, in preparation for registering and tagging.

First we checked to make sure that the content and reading level were appropriate for our preschoolers.  Books that were too high for preschool were shared with a local primary school.  After the initial sort, we began categorizing by topics that coincide with our educational programming. The groups include educational “themes” like animals, transport, community helpers, and food as well as concepts that highlight Learning Standards.

Our Learning Standards approach sets a framework for schools to provide support for the holistic (emotional, social and value, cognitive, language, and physical) development of children. This means that children are taught about self-control, problem-solving, argument resolution, persistence, and empathy in addition to the more typical schedule of colors, shapes, numbers, and writing. 

For library organization, we’ve decided to forgo the Dewey Decimal system. Instead, each topic grouping has its own color label for shelving.  The books covering “cognitive” concepts, like sorting, patterns, and time have red tags. “Social and value” books that address topics such as appreciating diversity, working together, and solving conflict will have blue tags.  With colors, teachers can easily find the topics they are looking for as they plan their lessons.

Thanks to generous donations, we’ve been able to purchase FileMaker Pro, which is software that allows us to build databases. This is where we register our books to keep inventory and how we’ll check them out.

The teachers are thrilled at the prospect of being able to check out more books.  Due to our limited supply before, we restricted checkouts to 3 books per school.  As teachers are now reading EVERY DAY to their children, they’re often asking to bend the rules in order to rent more at a time.  It’s terribly difficult to limit voracious readers, so we’re proud that we’ll soon be able to offer class boxes of 30 books at a time!

 

Learning to love books
Learning to love books
Sorted books
Sorted books
Labeling books
Labeling books
Jun 26, 2013

How the books came to Swaziland

Unloading books
Unloading books

The 5,000 books that Vusumnotfo received were organized by Peace Corps Volunteers in Swaziland and sent via Books for Africa (www.booksforafrica.org). This was part of a larger shipment of books for schools and community organizations throughout Swaziland and included training in library management. 

In the words of Kelly Roots, who was the Peace Corps Volunteer coordinating the effort in Swaziland - 

The journey of the books (30,000 in total for Swaziland) started back in November, as 27 Peace Corps volunteers sent out letters to friends and family asking for help in fundraising for the shipment of Books for Swaziland. During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season the money steadily grew as more and more people donated the PCPP (Peace Corps Partnership Program) to meet the goal of $10,000 needed to ship the books to Swaziland. 

On March 21st to the 23rd, 2013, Peace Corps volunteers partnered with Swaziland National Library Service to provide a librarian workshop to 34 library leaders. Before the workshop, participants were asked to visit a National Library to gain a better understanding of proper library management. A plethora of skills were taught demonstrated, and practiced by the participants including book processing, repairs, student involvement, and logistical tasks needed to run a successful and well-used library. After the two-day workshop, the attendees completed a written exam to test their knowledge and skills they acquired. All 34 library leaders passed their written exam! The participants’ answers were articulate and well thought out, displaying their clear understanding of the concepts of library organization and management. We were ecstatic to have participants that were excited to learn and establish libraries, especially since most of them have never worked or had access to a library before.

Books for Africa were busy collecting and organizing the book order, for the 30 library projects in Swaziland, during February and March. On March 20th, the books were shipped from the United States to South Africa. The books arrived earlier then expected on May 7th! A group of volunteers spent several days unloading and sorting the books, to make sure each school / organization received the correct type of books. Each school / organization that received books brought transport to a central location to collect their books. Aside from Vusumnotfo, this included several schools, two hospitals, a refugee camp, and an orphanage. 

All 30,000 books!
All 30,000 books!
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