Jane Kinney Meyers' remarks
June 8th, 2017 at Lubuto Mthunzi American Youth Library opening
Ambassador Schultz; representative of the Honorable Minister of General Education Mr. Mwamba; Judie, Eileen, Briget and Jessie; the Apostolic Nuncio and other distinguished clergy; members of the diplomatic corps; Lubuto Advisory Board members Mark O'Donnell and Mark Chona; Father Kizito and representatives of Amani and the Mthunzi Centre; LIAZ President Munsanje and library colleagues; members of the community and children gathered for this opening:
Imiti iikula, e mpanga! - growing trees make a forest! I am so happy to look out at the beautiful faces of the growing trees who are gathered here to celebrate the opening of this library.
The book of Zambian proverbs in which I found this saying explained that it is used to teach the importance of taking proper care of the young, as well as the importance of young people working hard to gain the skills and knowledge needed to grow into thriving adults.
Young people are so busy with both the fun and hard work of getting from today to tomorrow, and the prospect of adulthood seems so far in the future, that staying on the path that leads to being a healthy and empowered adult can be very difficult. The path runs through the forest and you many encounter snakes and lions on your way!
So, I am here to tell you that this library is a kind of train that will make it easier, safer and more fun for you to stay on the path. It is not just any train. This train is just for you and I am sure that it will become a part of your life and, hopefully, a place that you will come to love.
In the time ahead, you will be able to find out for yourselves why this library is your special place. It is a safe place that is open to all of the children and youth in this community. A place where you all belong. If you have siblings or friends who are deaf or blind, this library is also for them.
You will find some books that make you laugh and others that make you sad. Books that will help you understand science and math and nature, and how the human body works. You may come to the library with your siblings and friends to read novels or poetry in cinyanja or icibemba, or you may come to sit in the talking circle with others to hear stories read aloud.
Did I mention that the library has computers? That you will be able to learn how to use them to make art, and to play games, and search the internet, and to become better readers? And there will be programs that will be fun and will help you to grow.
And, yes, the library is here to help you stay safe from snakes and lions. Under a grant from the American Government, there will be mentoring programs for girls, for boys, and for families that will help you stay strong, healthy and in school or, if you are not in school, to start. Our PEPFAR DREAMS programs team is listed in the program, but all of us at Lubuto are working hard to keep adolescent girls in school and AIDS-free.
This library has benefited from the generosity of the American people. A large part of the cost for building this library and for the purchasing of books and supplies was paid for by the American Schools and Hospitals Abroad program of the United States Agency for International Development. We are honored that Ambassador Eric Schultz is here today to represent the American Government. This library reflects a quintessentially American institution for fostering literacy and learning across the citizenry and for encouraging peaceful civic engagement. In sharing this institution, the American people are also sharing their commitment to democracy and human rights, confronting extremism, and for supporting economic opportunity and prosperity and improved education and health outcomes in Zambia. Thank you, Ambassador Schultz.
This library would not have been built without the support of some very special Americans. Judie Feedham, who is here from the United States with her daughters and daughter-in-law, came to Lubuto and said that she and her family wanted to help. Their generosity, combined with the support from USAID, made this library a reality. You will hear from Judie shortly and meet Bridget, Eileen and Jessie.
In the time ahead, as you enjoy using this library, perhaps you will remember these friends and keep a place in your hearts for them.
We are also honored to have present Mr. Jeremiah Mwamba, representing the Honorable Minister of General Education. This library, which is built on a durable relationship between Lubuto and the Mthunzi Centre, will help to create a better Zambia by meeting the critical needs of the community's youth, especially the marginalized. In addition, this library, which will be supported by Lubuto's continuing provision of updated information resources, regular extensive training, and staff and maintenance support, will aid in the development of professional library expertise in Zambia. While our immediate focus is on the children of this community, we share with the Government the objective of creating a Zambia in which all children will have access to a library like this, supported by a thriving Zambian professional library community.
Last but by no means least, I extend our appreciation, gratitude and friendship to the Directors and staff of the Mthunzi Centre. Most of you already know these important members of your community. I do not have the words to adequately thank them for their generosity of spirit, and for their unwavering commitment to serving this community and its children. We are honored to be partners with them in establishing this library and look forward to working alongside them in the years ahead.