A Portland native is seeking help from home for a Portland-sized community trying to build a library in the far west of the East African country of Kenya.
GIVING BACK: Kaplan and Kenyan friends
Eva Kaplan, 26, has been living in Busia, Kenya, for the past year, working with MIT’s Poverty Action Lab, using scientifically based research to evaluate and improve poverty-fighting efforts around the globe.
Her job is to track the AIDS epidemic spreading through the population, and now infecting about half of the people in the region. In that community, the disease is mostly transmitted by sex workers. Kaplan is managing a staff of 10 Kenyans monitoring a group of about 150 sex workers to determine how the disease spreads, the more effectively to combat it.
A related project Kaplan is working on is developing the community's first library, which opened in April in an interim space whose rent is paid by local volunteers. Children have already begun gather in the temporary space, sharing the books that are there. Land has been donated by a national library-development organization and construction will soon begin on a new library building.
Kaplan has sought book donations from the US, but now her mother, Molly Chancey, coordinating the effort Stateside, is faced with trying to get thousands of books to Kenya. Chancey, an English professor at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, says she needs $5000 to ship the books to Africa. “Some books have been sent directly to the library, and the locals are thrilled about the arrival,” she says.Literacy rates in the community have dropped, as school-dropout rates rise because of drug addiction and disease. Chancey says the library will be a help to counter those trends: “the amount of books we have gathered is great. Now we need a way to get them over there.”
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