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This article was published 18/6/2019 (254 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When Othello Wesee attended school in the Liberian town of Karlokeh, there was just one algebra textbook — for all the students.
"The whole school was sharing that one textbook — it was precious," said Wesee, who resettled in Winnipeg 15 years ago, and is helping organize a World Refugee Day dinner Thursday to raise money for a library in his village to be filled with all kinds of books for all ages.
The west Africa nation of Liberia is recovering from two recent civil wars, but not much has changed in the village Wesee fled as a teen.
"There's a high school but no reading material," said Wesee, who works for Seven Oaks School Division.
Seven Oaks is partnering with the Liberian International Foundation for Equity Inc. for Thursday's event at Maples Collegiate. Meanwhile, in Karlokeh (pop. 1,500), villagers are still starving for stuff to read, said Wesee.
"There's no library. The nearest one is an hour-and-a-half drive," he said, recalling when U.S. Peace Corps volunteers arrived in his village bearing books and the joy they brought.
"It was a big thing," said Wesee, who became a refugee at 15, and was stuck in refugee camps in Ivory Coast, then Ghana, with little to do. When he arrived in Winnipeg in 2004, he organized summer soccer camps for inner-city youth and went to work for the Seven Oaks School Division.
He spent seven years navigating Canada's immigration system to bring his wife and son, stuck in a Ghanaian refugee camp, to Winnipeg.
Now, he's on a mission to restore the joy of reading in Karlokeh. The not-for-profit Liberian International Foundation for Equity has a $10,000 fundraising goal to cover the total cost of local materials and labour for the library and has applied for charitable status, said Wesee.
Karlokeh residents will be involved in building and running the facility. "We are working in collaboration with villagers."
Proceeds from Thursday's dinner will go to the library. Tickets are $20, and include Liberian cuisine, dancing, drumming groups and a youth fashion show.
The timing of the event — World Refugee Day — isn't lost on Wesee.
"It's to honour the strength and courage of refugees around the world."
(For more information, contact Wesee at 204-291-5017, Seven Oaks SD (Peter Krahn) at 204-223-5402, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.