How volunteer power built a library in Mozambique | ActionAid UK

This week is national Volunteers' Week - a chance to celebrate the achievements and dedication of volunteers from around the UK.

Last month I spent a week working with 21 ActionAid volunteers from Turner Broadcasting in Mozambique. They gave up their time to build a library for a secondary school in the town of Marracuene. 

Our volunteers from Turner Broadcasting in Mozambique
Our volunteers from Turner Broadcasting celebrating their work in Mozambique

Education in Mozambique

Half of Mozambique’s population live below the poverty line, and whilst progress is being made in education, nearly 50% of women are illiterate.

Books are vital to securing an education in Mozambique - the reality is that without access to books, children often drop out of school or achieve poor grades in their exams. There is no library in Marracuene, meaning children are forced to travel to the nearest overcrowded library in Maputo. Parents are unable to cover the travel costs and the walk is nearly six hours long.

Volunteer Jude Faulkner shares photos of her family with girls from the school

Welcomed by the community

When we arrived, the welcome we received was incredible. Hundreds of students and community members came to greet us, and there was music, dancing, speeches and a traditional African ground-blessing ritual

The local community dancing at the welcome ceremony

Getting our hands dirty

We spent five days working in the heat, digging, transporting materials, mixing cement and laying bricks which will form the foundations of the library. There was no machinery to make the job easier. We spent many hours mixing cement by hand.

Fiona Sibbett transports sand that will be used to form the floor of the library

Making friends

Throughout the experience, we made many friends. The local children loved visiting us on site, practising their English and playing games with us when we were taking breaks. They were keen to help too by clearing litter from the playground. 

Renata Pimenta and Ruby Methley bond with the local children

Understanding the impact

The library will be used by all the schools in the district and the community. We met with a local women’s group – made up of determined, ambitious and passionate women who are only now receiving an education. Up until now they have gone through life unable to read, write or even count.

The students chat to us about their favourite school subjects and career aspirations

Learning these vital life skills has changed their lives. Now they can count money to buy food for their family. The library will be stocked with a wide range of books that will help these women continue their education and be in a better position to lift themselves out of poverty.

A woman attends literacy and numeracy classes with her baby to help improve her education

A life-changing experience

The warm hospitality we received from the community was incredibly touching. The most memorable words of the week were spoken by one of the builders, who said: 'There is no reason why people from different backgrounds and countries cannot work together to build a better future for all.'
This experience will stay with us all forever.

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