In the Peace Corps in Niger, our education volunteers focused on community and youth education, rather than teaching in classrooms. Part of this was government mandate, but much resulted from the observation that education involving the whole community is a powerful antidote to poverty. Just this past week, Nicholas Kristof wrote about the ways libraries at home and abroad change lives. As the digital world marches forward, investing in the construction and maintenance of these invaluable community centers must not wane. In some of the most remote parts of America and the world, the physical presence of a library cuts down the social and economic divide in ways that placing a laptop or tablet PC in the hands of every child cannot bridge. Access to information without a community focal point neglects the social nature of human beings. We need a place to share what we have learned with others, and we need a place to organize.
I was pleased to learn this week of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists and their efforts educate communities around the world and connect the Unitarian Universalist denomination globally.
Community education can happen through libraries, places of faith, and after school programs that reach beyond walls. In Good Magazine today, Meg Malone of City Year New York tells her story about empowering community members to turn a school into a hub. She reflects on a principle of City Year:
One of the principles that City Year corps members look to for guidance and perspective is Ubuntu, a shortened version of a Zulu proverb that means, “I am a person through other people. My humanity is tied to yours.”
Ubuntu is without borders.
Excellent point Mike. Yes the digital world has opened many doors and broken down many barriers, but there’s something about a physical community hub, be it a library, church, or cafe, that creates a space for the community to connect. A library in a very poor inner city neighborhood in my community was resurrected three years ago after many years of collecting dust. The library provides computers with internet access, a luxury that we take for granted but one that many people in that neighborhood do not have. In addition the library offers classes on a variety of important issues such as personal financial education. They even host concerts and other performances on a monthly basis. In short, the place is a positive community hub where people can connect, learn, and collaborate.
Maybe I’m too old fashioned, but when it all boils down to it, i could care less about connecting via the internet and would much rather walk down to my neighborhood library and see what’s going on. Beautiful things happen when there’s a safe and vibrant place for people to connect.