Co-creating change for 1,300 children in Congo

Two ATIBT members, GLOBAL TIMBER and IFO, a subsidiary of INTERHOLCO, have strengthened the capacity of the library and computer equipment in the village of Ngombé.

In Congo Brazzaville, public schools offer free primary education. However, it's not easy to find support for quality schooling. Especially in the wake of the pandemic.
Earlier this year, GLOBAL TIMBER, a leading timber importer, strengthened the capacity of the library that INTERHOLCO subsidiary Industrie Forestière de Ouesso (IFO) runs in the village of Ngombé.
Thanks to Global Timber, the children of Ngombé can quench their thirst for knowledge on ten brand-new computers (15 computers in total) and over 400 modern, illustrated and up-to-date textbooks - the same mathematics, natural sciences, French, history and geography books and high school yearbooks found in Brazzaville's expensive private schools.

In June 2023, Global Timber's CEO visited IFO. "Guess which library activity is the most popular?" dares CEO Anders Bitzer: "Computer courses". Global Timber trades timber internationally, relying on a strong network of suppliers. "Interholco's fund-raising at COVID-19 got them off the ground", shares Mr. Bitzer, "which prompted us to sponsor one of their social projects in the Congo, one that would make a lasting difference to children living in remote areas. It's an excellent example of how companies and local communities are joining forces to improve living conditions through access to education".

The library's computer courses are a big hit with everyone. © Alain Mazeau / INTERHOLCO

Audrey Mampouya, head librarian (right) and Raïssa Tsimba, assistant librarian (left). © INTERHOLCO

The Ngombé elementary school had to set up two shifts, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon, to enable the 1,300 boys and girls to attend classes, and also to have access to the Ngombé library. Other school structures also participate in the life of the library, as children come from private elementary school, the elementary school for the natives, the collège and the Lycée de Ngombé to study. "Think of our library as a dependency of the school", says Audrey Mampouya, Librarian: "Here, children receive help with their homework, day after day. Not all children have the same learning pace, so a place where they feel at ease is really essential". Audrey also visits the native school about once a year to meet students and teachers, and to organize activities with the native women, such as storytelling and folk dancing.

She shows the toys the children (now older) made from tin and vines: animals and cars, mainly. "It was a funny project that was carried out in the first days of the library", recalls Audrey.

Games encourage teamwork and help children to develop their social skills. © Tullia Baldassarri H. von H. / INTERHOLCO

Ngombé's children come to the library to play, make and have fun. "The introverts have a real talent for puzzles. The mathematicians solve games of Ludo, dominoes... The more extroverted characters prefer to interact with their friends. Everyone loves to play..." Audrey pauses, then continues: "Playing allows them to learn things in a practical way, you see?".  
Due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, the United Nations warns that child illiteracy could reach 70% in developing countries. Can you imagine not being able to send a message or find your way because you can't read a map? "The children of Ngombé are quick to learn how to use computers", smiles Raïssa Tsimba, Audrey's direct collaborator. "They sign up for our English and computer courses and end up knowing how to fill in forms and send e-mails."
Read the full article at the following link: Co-creating change for 1,300 children in Congo.

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