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...
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!
Mar 18, 2013

9th Report, October, 2012 - a volunteer's report

Jump for joy
Jump for joy

I met Kathy Gau as a Peace Corps trainee during a permaculture workshop that she was facilitating for Peace Corps.  Since then, I have been placed to work up in the Hhohho region, near Vusumnotfo and have been working with Kathy to identify projects that we can work on together.  When Kathy asked me to go out to Cetjwayo to observe the playground building site I wasn’t sure what to expect or write about. Then I started thinking about what I would want to know if I gave to a Global Giving project and was reading the report about what my money was doing.  Here is what I have come up with to confirm, that indeed, as an outside observer visiting for a few hours one day, you have identified and invested in a worth while project that is already impacting the Cetjwayo Community.

When we arrived in Cetjwayo, after about and hour spent negotiating dirt roads that had been washed out the night before in a huge storm (this place is rural), I wasn’t sure that I would be able to report the way I wanted to about the playground project.  Then I started talking to boBabe (the men) and boMake (the women) about the plan for the playground and my worries were eased. 

This playground is being constructed alongside a bunch of other projects for this preschool, including a pit latrine and three new classrooms.  This explains the huge piles of construction materials piled up around the school grounds.  After all of these projects have been completed this will be an amazing place of learning for the young kids in Cetjwayo preparing for primary school. 

Babe Patrik Mkhonta walked me through the plan for the playground and then, Garth, and Babe Sibusiso Mahlalela joined him in getting the construction for the playground started for the day.  All three of these men work for Kathy to get these playground projects started in the community.

Babe Mkhonta (in the blue) explained that there would be a climbing area, progressively smaller tires stacked on one another stabalized with a pole in the center and ropes coming down the pile for kids to use when they are climbing, that would be surrounded by and lead into a sand pit so that if the kids fall they won’t get hurt.  The climbing pile will be on the far right of the stakes showing in this picture. Tire swings will be in the structure that you can see constructed here already, also with sand under them.

When talking to Babe Mkhonta about how all of this work would get done, specifically the digging for the sand pit he told me that he hopes that some community members would step up to help, but that he wasn’t sure.  After only a short forty five minutes of work measuring, digging holes for posts, shoveling gravel and sand, and nailing, some women that had been sitting around the pre school stepped up to help dig out the sand pit. They were joined shortly after they started working by another Babe from the community.  Coming from a community setting, and understanding how hard it can be to motivate a community to help itself, especially when there are outside people there who could potentially do all the work, this was a very telling moment.  This community was well chosen for this playground.  The preschool is being updated, and the community is invested enough in this school and it’s young kids that they are willing to put in the manual labor to help improve it as much as they can.

I am happy to see progress coming along so quickly on this playground.  Even in the short time I was there the playground was transformed from some staked and blocked off squares and rectangles, with piles of dirt, sand, and gravel in the surrounding area, to an emerging playground with all of the things that I loved to play with during recess while I was growing up.  More supplies were pulled out of storage in the school, protected from the storm the night before, and I could see the vision and impact of this new play area.

I look forward to seeing the final product in use.

Play before finished
Play before finished
Layout of playground
Layout of playground

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