For residents of Sandvoort, West Canje, establishing a library was always a dream which they felt would remain just that. But then that dream finally became a reality.
Feeling proud of their accomplishment, they stressed that it could not have happened without the input of Peace Corps volunteer, Matthew Cusimano.
The youth can hardly wait for the library to be officially opened by the end of this month although they still have had the opportunity to explore a few interesting books in the meantime.
An elderly resident, Thourald Sinclair is elated that the library has finally come into existence as it meant that the youngsters would no longer have time to idle. He emphasised that “reading is very important but children these days would rather spend time on gadgets and watching television. Now they would have no excuse not to read.”
Sinclair, acting chairman of Sandvoort Village Co-op Society hopes that they make full use of the facility so as to expand their knowledge and that they would take good care of it and the books.
With the help of members of the community, especially the youth, a room in the bottom flat of the Sandvoort Primary was transformed to accommodate the library. It is also equipped with three computers and some laptops are expected as well.
Residents of Sandvoort, a remote Berbice community with a population of over 200, had to travel over two miles away to get to a library.
Sinclair admired Cusimano for his dy-namism and commitment in completing the task. He also complimented him for mobilizing villagers to be involved in self-help work.
This newspaper ob-served that the Peace Corps volunteer has gained the respect of the youth who fondly referred to him as “Sir Matt.”
Setting up a library is not an easy task as it means acquiring a grant and other resources and residents did not know where to start.
Cusimano played a major part in that regard but modestly told this newspaper that it was all the idea of the community and that he “just helped them [residents] to start something that they already had been wanting for a number of years.”
He teaches at the school as an education promoter and is involved in development projects at the school and community.
In an interview, he told the Sunday Stabroek that when former headmaster of the Sandvoort Primary School Randell Alfred threw the idea at him he readily agreed to help.
He then approached residents and that was when he learnt that they had always wanted a library and that they “wanted to continue with their education but they just didn’t know where to start.”
Using the “resources through Peace Corps…” and taking what he knew “from Georgetown and bringing them up to Berbice,” the birth of the library began.
Cusimano got down to the “grant writing” for the project and it was soon approved by the Better World Books foundation that provided US$2,800 in books and shipping cost.
He was happy that out of 100 applications around the world looking for funding for library projects, Sandvoort was among three that were chosen.
Under half of the funding also came from private donors in USA and Canada. REDbandaid Foundation as well as other donors in Georgetown helped with US$750 worth of materials while other local persons also pitched in.
He recalled that the self-help work started with the youth and when the adults saw them, they too were inspired to assist. Some of persons also provided food to those who helped.
In a CNN article published on December 27, Cusimano was quoted as saying, “There’s no such thing as literature or fun reads or junior novels or any of those sorts of things” in Sandvoort.
“They are growing up in an education system of chalk and talk – where the teacher writes something on the chalkboard and talks about it. They write something on the board (and) the students copy it. There’s nothing analytical about it. There’s no such thing as differentiated learning.”
He was quoted as saying too, “Guyana is a performance-based culture, which makes it one of the more appropriate places in this region for a library. … We are limiting our children’s abilities through ‘chalk-and-talk’ methods of teaching. That’s why I was comfortable taking on a library project.”
He told this newspaper that “a lot of the resources are available and I’m trying to teach everyone that if you want to do a project, it’s possible.”
They just need to know “how to develop the human aspect of it; the human resources, how to motivate people” and he thinks “that has been the larger part of the project.”
Michael April, one of the youth, said proudly that he helped to build shelves, paint the library and pack up the books.
April, a 17-year-old student of Tutorial High School said he also contributed a few dollars to the project out of his savings.
A national boxer who represented Guyana in Peru, he was thrilled at the idea of the library because the community lacked activities.
The final stage of the project involves structuring the committee body while the by-laws has to be “created the by the villagers because they’re in ownership.”
Persons also have to be trained as librarians and they would decide which days they would volunteer.
Meanwhile, this is not the first project that Cusimano was involved in Guyana. He volunteered with Builder Beyond Borders to build a road in Wakapao, Region Two. The holder of a degree in filmmaking, he also “did a lot of media for them.”
What he enjoyed about building the road in that far-flung community was that it was also “building bridges between different cultures… It is not the infrastructure so much but building those relationships that might have been lost.”
Cusimano has been in Guyana for the past two years and in the village since March 2013. He initially lived “with a Guyanese family in Region Three while getting acquainted with the country, its cultures and how to work with the education system.”