The Catholic University of America

May 4, 2009

Books, Computers on Their Way to Tanzania

Volunteers load some of the more than 7,000 books CUA Campus Ministry collected to be sent to Tanzania.

Student volunteers worked in the rain on May 4 for two hours to load more than 7,000 books and 20 computers that were collected, catalogued and packed by Catholic University students to be shipped in a 20-by-8-by-8-foot container to the Brothers of Charity in Kigoma, Tanzania. (See video from the day here.)

Under the guidance of the Office of Campus Ministry, students spent weeks gathering textbooks and supplies from faculty, staff, students, and local agencies and schools to help establish a university-level academic library in Kigoma.

"The amount of donations baffles me. It's overwhelming," says Kevin Bein, a senior psychology major from Sarasota, Fla., who helped to organize the collection. "My one worry was: Were we going to get enough stuff to fill the container?"

Bein notes that Rev. Robert Schlageter, O.F.M. Conv., university chaplain and director of Campus Ministry, helped the project succeed because he "tapped in to all the people he knew at this university and other universities."

The cost of shipping is being covered by money raised by students in a charity dance and funds from the Brothers of Charity, Campus Ministry and other donations.

Before sending the books, students catalogued them in an online database so the library is searchable by title, author and subject. Computers were refurbished and pre-loaded with software. The university also is sending hardware to network computer labs in Kigoma.

Rev. Robert Schlageter, O.F.M. Conv., university chaplain and director of campus ministry, watches the loading of the container with Brother Venance Kalolo, a Brother of Charity and a native of Kigoma.
Catholic University and the Brothers of Charity - a Belgium-based religious order founded in 1807 - have enjoyed a partnership for 10 years. As part of the partnership, brothers in Africa and Asia come to CUA to complete degrees in education and nursing. This relationship was strengthened when, in 2007, Catholic University sponsored the Opus Prize and Brother Goetschalckx received $1 million on behalf of the Brothers of Charity for his work in Tanzania.

Last summer, for the first time, CUA sponsored a mission trip to Tanzania to assist the Brothers of Charity in Kigoma. During the trip, six students, including Bein, witnessed firsthand the need for basic educational resources. In Kigoma the brothers train refugees and residents of local communities in the fields of education, nursing and social work.

"These future teachers, nurses and social workers need the proper tools to work for a better and more just quality of life in the communities of East Africa," said Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., university president. "I consider this a very worthy student-initiated project to help the brothers in their important work."