Stacia Cammarano, Seattle Academy Student ’12
My involvement with the Seattle Academy Zambia Club began in my 8th grade year at Seattle Academy. My English teacher, Sonja, advertised the Zambia Club in class one day and for some reason, I found it very important to join the club. After a full year of bake sales that no doubt added some meat to the bones of students and cleaned out their wallets on Friday mornings, the Middle School Zambia Club at SAAS had raised $10,000 for our latest project, a library for students at the Birdland School in Lusaka, Zambia.
The Birdland School is an elementary school in Lusaka, Zambia that has students ranging in ages from three to 13 years old. And for the past several summers when SAAS students visited Zambia, they worked closely with the school and had fostered a close relationship. The idea for the Birdland library came when my English teacher, Sonja, gave two students, Musa and Moono, two picture books as gifts. Tugging on her shirt, one of the two twin boys asked, “Is this book really for me? To keep?” Sonja replied that yes, the book really was for him to keep, and realized that the students at Birdland desperately needed a library.
The next year, 2009, construction began at the school to build the library. The SAAS group of students that travelled to Zambia that summer were able to carry bricks, sort books, and look in on the progress of the library. By the time June 2010 rolled around, the Birdland library was finished and I was on a plane on my way to Zambia with 12 other SAAS students.
One of the first things our group did while in Zambia was go to the Birdland School. And there on the school grounds, sticking out just as much as we mzungus (said: mu-zun-goo) stood out among the Zambia children, stood the Birdland library. The outside was a stark white and the cement floors an evergreen hue. Inside, it was just as bare with a metal roof and only 2 tables. “I guess the Middle School’s next project will be to furnish this place.” I said to my friend, Maddie, as we started our project of sorting and labeling books so they could be put on the few shelves in the library.
Four weeks later, and after our nine day safari traveling all over Zambia, our group returned to Birdland for the grand opening of the library. On the day of the opening, we stood under tall trees on a side street near the school, waiting for the procession of students to arrive. An hour later, two buses arrived full to the brim with children and the festivities began! The most exciting part of the celebration was marching with the local police station marching band around an intersection on the 50mph highway. And no, they didn’t stop the traffic for us.
After our rather terrifying traffic ordeal that seemed only to irk us American students, we turned around and entered the Birdland School court yard. In honor of the celebration, two white tents had been propped up to shield the 100 visitors and students from the warm Zambian sun during the celebration. The normal presentation pleasantries were completed: Sonja introduced herself, we presented a book we made with the 5th grade Birdland students, and the head of Birdland School, Olive Mumba, gave a short speech. As the ceremony came to an end, large silver scissors were handed to Sonja to cut the ribbon barring the double-doors that lead into the new library. I held my breath, waiting for the all important snip to occur and for the yellow ribbon to fall to the ground. The ribbon twirled to the floor as the masses descended upon the new library. A television crew interviewed student in the corner and parents and students flipped through books while sitting in groups around the room. I looked around happily, seeing 3 years of hard work and team effort from students and teachers alike materialize into the library I stood in.
The next year, I returned to SAAS ready to start my junior year and to report on the wonders I beheld while at the Birdland School. Seeing that the Birdland Project was just about finished, the Seattle Academy Zambia Club decided to focus their efforts and move onto another project by helping a local hospice in Lusaka and gathering shoes for a community clinic a mile from where SAAS students stay while in Zambia. We plan on having bake sales, supply drives, and providing concessions at several SAAS plays and athletic meets. So, to everyone, be on the lookout this year for such events and stop by to learn more about the program and how you can help the SAAS Zambia Club this year.