One Small Step for Equal Education Opportunities: From me to PNG build two functional school libraries and learning hubs in Papua New Guinea.

Words by Sam O’Connell

From me to PNG is a charity built around the belief that every kid is filled with their own unique fire and potential, and every kid deserves the chance to release this potential into the world. Education is the key to this and that is why we want to ensure every school has adequate learning facilities and environments.

Rewind to 2017, we built our first school library as a charity – fully transforming a dirty, dark room to a bright, po4sitive space filled with books covering all categories, teaching resources, educational posters and general love and hope. Fast forward to 2019, it was time to do it all again. In one week. 

DAY 1 & 2: Sort, Sort and More Sorting 

We had four containers locked and loaded; books, toys, furniture, teaching resources, pre-loved games, puzzles, precious notes, teddies, space adventures, dinosaur stories, animal facts and more. It was safe to say, we had a lot of sorting to do, fortunately, we had the help of the neighbouring village! We moved the five hundred or so boxes to an empty warehouse and got to work. Primary School here, High School there, teaching ‘stuff’ over there, games or miscellaneous in that corner and rubbish in that space there. We came to realise the pure extent of our generous donors back home and just how lucky we were. By 6 pm on day two, we had finished two full days of back-breaking organising and ready to have the books on the move. 

Photography: Courtesy of From Me To PNG

DAY 3: Reality Check! 

We had a rough idea of what the school ‘library’ was going to be like, but, there’s nothing like seeing it in the flesh, smelling the years of dirt and built-up dust, and standing in the middle of a blank, empty room that should be the primary learning area for the school. We immediately felt an overwhelming feeling of emotion but a strong determination to get the job done. 

We headed to the outskirts of town where Ripinka School sits, almost losing a couple of books as we navigated through a maze of potholes. As we arrived, all the local kids came running out and greeted us with big cheesy smiles and an eagerness to get amongst the books; the best part! 

We cleaned from top to bottom and unpacked the books at their new home. Working alongside the school librarian and some of the teachers, we made a plan and designed a layout. 

DAY 4 & 5: Operation Books on Shelves! 

The plan had been made and now it was time to fill the shelves! The library was divided into categories; from early learners up to senior level, from animals to space to recycling. With the help from the teachers, students and other locals, we go it all loaded in one day! Even time for some games, counting to ten and storytime. 

DAY 6: From a Room Full of Books to a Functional Library 

The books are in, but, now its time to turn the space into an appropriate learning environment. This is a huge part of what we do as a charity, we never want to just dump the books but instead, fully turn their library into a functional, positive hub that the kids can really relate to and relax in. We like to work closely with the librarians and teachers and do what they feel is best for their teaching and students. 

We hung up the posters, lay down a mat, threw in the bean bags, put in the chairs and the group learning table and we were finished, ready to let the kids run wild! That is exactly what they did, within minutes the kids were pulling out books, hugging their favourite ones, fighting over the bean bags, reading in groups and smiling!

DAY 7: Not One but Two Libraries!

After a morning of playing and reading in the Ripinkas new library with the students, yes, they all had to show us their new favourite book and showcase their newfound love for trucks and diggers, we found ourselves with some hours to spare, so headed to the school down the road from Ripinka and quickly topped up their library. They are currently using a storage room for their library with no readable books…  We quickly got work. After emptying the old books, we cleaned it inside and out and filled the few shelves with bright, fresh and readable books. We added some posters and let the local kids give it a test run! They all found their favourite book and sat down outside to read it. As no school should use a small storage room as their library, we hope to one day turn the schools spare room into a proper library! 

We did it. One week. Two brand new school learning hubs in rural Papua New Guinea. Ready for the next ones! ‘The Storage Room / Make Shift Library’ 

‘The Storage Room / Makeshift Library’

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