“Just because I’m a Librarian doesn’t mean I know how to build a Library” said Cindy Strong laughing when Chamwino Connect founder Kedmon Mapana approached her back in 2009.
Mapana was a doctoral student at Seattle Pacific University, at the time, and Cindy was his librarian.
He continually persisted she build a library in his village in Tanzania, encouraging Strong to at least visit Chamwino. Dr. Mapana wanted students in his village to have access to the technology that he had when we went to college. After two and a half years, she finally said “yes,” and immediately began researching about how to set up a library in Africa.
Strong never thought that now five, almost six years later, the Chamwino Connect Secondary School Library would be established and better yet, thriving. The library now has 125 ereaders, 2 computers (with Internet access), a printer, and print books. According to the principal of the Secondary School, the ereaders have helped increase test scores.
This past July, Strong took a group of graduate students from SPU. They were required to go on a cultural immersion trip. The focus of the trip was to simply listen. The first week was spent at the University of Dar Es Salaam where Dr. Mapana is a professor. At the University, the group spent time learning from lectures about African religion, Julius Nyerere, Islam, recent archeological finds in Northern Tanzania, and reconciliation. The second week they visited surrounding villages near Chamwino. In each village, there was a group preparing for the Wagogo Music Festival; Strong and her group were able to view a private performance of the musicians who were preparing for the Festival. After the performance, the villagers provided everyone (SPU students and villagers) with a delectable meal. “It was such a blessing to eat with the villagers,” Strong shared. “We all thought the experience was the highlight of the trip. I love the way Kedmon brings different groups of people together that don’t know each other, don’t have the same religious background, and we all get together and have a great time.” Strong was also particularly fascinated with the young girl drummers; they were impressively vigorous and passionate as they performed.
The village of Chamwino has changed over the years since Strong first visited. However, the people have always been welcoming, hardworking, and resourceful individuals. Strong appreciates how life in Tanzania is less “hustle and bustle” and more about relationships with one another.
I asked what she would say to someone to convince them to go to Chamwino themselves. She responded, “That’s a tough one. Why would someone pay that much money to go half way across the world? To see a wonderful way of providing hospitality and to learn about the diversity of humanity in God’s creation. People in Tanzania are all about relationships and family. That’s the most important thing. I think we could learn from that. We tend to be so indivualistic. I find it so attractive.”
Chamwino Connect would not be where it is without Strong’s commitment and service. We are thankful for her willingness to just say “yes.”