How We Got Started
Working with family and friends from a church basement, our President, Mark Cotham helped gather and ship to Uganda over 160,000 books which helped build over 200 libraries in schools, health centers, orphanages and communities in Northwest Uganda. Beginning in 2010 and continuing on through today, Mr. Cotham, working with others at Chapelwood United Methodist Church, 11140 Greenbay, Houston Texas 77024, built these libraries in the Zombo District in Northwest Uganda. This has been an evolving project that began with modest goals that have become progressively more ambitious as resources and experience have grown.
The project began with the discovery from previous trips to Uganda by Mr. Cotham, including approximately twenty village meetings conducted in connection with Orphan Support Africa, that the local people uniformly thought that education was their greatest need. As the project started, the hope was to gather enough books for a handful of libraries, but due to a lot of people’s generosity, plans were quickly scaled up. Very generous donations came from, and continue to come from, Chapelwood members, surrounding churches, friends, friends of friends, Half Price Books, the Friends of the Houston Public Library, and many other sources. The ABC affiliate Channel 13 came and did a brief story about Chapelwood’s Uganda school library project.
In June, 2011, a group from Chapelwood helped build 23 school libraries and one medical clinic library. Books were also gathered and shipped to help another organization, Promise International, P.O. Box 211631, Bedford, Texas 76095, build libraries at 4 orphanages. The Chapelwood Foundation, 11140 Greenbay, Houston Texas 77024, also generously donated solar lanterns that were passed out to help the children read and the local clinics be able to care for the sick at night. The blog that reflects day by day entries for the June 2011 mission trip and related photographs can be found at: http://thezombobookproject.blogspot.com/
From the experience at Chapelwood, it was concluded:
(1) It was both possible and very practical to collect books here in the United States, ship them to places like East Africa and distribute them to various communities and schools;
(2) The books are treasured by the local people, including students, teachers and adults and viewed as the means to a better future; and
(3) The collection of books in the United States represents a tangible way to involve people here in the plight of these extremely poor and needy people. Volunteering and donating here will involve those who never have the chance to travel to a place like East Africa. On the other hand, some who volunteer here will have their interests piqued enough to choose to travel to places like East Africa.