2007-06-14 / News

Librarians on African trek

By Michaela Kennedy

Islander Lisa Davis will follow in the footsteps of her daughter Hannah and travel to Africa this summer. On June 30, she will take her librarian talents and a load of books to Ghana to help disabled children. "I was looking for a volunteer experience in English-speaking Africa," Davis says. Her daughter went to Ghana a few years ago on a solo trip to Accra, Ghana, where she offered her services as a volunteer. "I promised my oldest daughter when she returned that I would go someday."

Through research, Davis came across an organization called Volunteer Build, a group that completes charitable building projects around Ghana. A library for the Cape Coast School for the Deaf is the organization's first project. "The school is one of only 13 in the whole country that tries to educate disabled children," she notes. Cape Deaf, as the school is fondly referred to, has 350 deaf students and 30 blind students, ages ranging from 5 to 16.

"On their Web site, they called for masons, electricians, plumbers, librarians, and other volunteers," Davis explains. Davis is not going alone. She is excited to travel with longtime friend Kristin Williams, a former children's librarian at the Jamestown Philomenian Library. Williams heard about the trip and applied for volunteer work at the same time. They will meet at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and travel, along with eight other volunteers, to Cape Coast. The women will spend two weeks cataloguing books and library materials for student use.

Her daughter was a high school senior when she ventured alone to Ghana. The day Davis saw Hannah off at the airport, she remembered, "I was so upset that the toll booth operator made me stop and talk with her." Inspired by Hannah's experience, she promised her oldest daughter that she, too, would make it to Africa one day.

Davis expressed amazement and gratitude for the support flowing to her for the trip this summer. The Jamestown and Warwick libraries have given her complete sets of encyclopedias as well as other books. Delta Airlines agreed to take 10 extra pieces of check-in baggage to help carry hundreds of donated books, DVDs, and some Braille items. Recently, a fellow islander, who chooses to remain anonymous, overhead her talking about the trip, He gave her 400 T-shirts with "Cape Deaf" imprinted on them.

Davis is anxious, excited, and a little nervous. "I'm looking forward to experiencing a different culture," she admits. Most importantly, though, Davis hopes to make a difference in the lives of children, "not only in a poor country, but born with a disability."

In addition to the library project, Davis looks forward to sightseeing in the historical city. The Cape Coast castle is one of the biggest trade and slave castles on the coastline of Ghana. Forced migration took place during the 1700s in the former capital of the Gold Coast, controlled by the British. "A British ship came and left every other day," Davis said.

Davis has been an island resident for the last 10 years and had worked at the Jamestown library for six years. She just started a new position last March doing technical services for Ocean State Libraries, and completed a master's degree in library sciences this spring.

For more information about building projects in Ghana, visit online at www.volunteerbuild.org. To learn more about Davis' adventure, contact her at islandbnb@aol. com.

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