- The Washington Times - Monday, May 11, 2009

This time of year — as the semester draws to a close and thoughts turn to summer break — lines in college bookstores snake around the racks while students exchange textbooks for cash.

But at Catholic University (CUA) in Northeast Washington, many students were thinking of a library to be assembled thousands of miles away in Kigoma, Tanzania.

Instead of selling their textbooks, CUA students — together with faculty, staff and local agencies — collected more than 7,700 books to establish a university-level academic library for the Brothers of Charity, a Belgium-based religious order. The brothers train refugees and residents of local communities in the fields of education, nursing and social work in Kigoma.

“It seemed like they could use the books more than I could use the money,” said William Tarraza, a sophomore sociology major from Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Mr. Tarraza helped collect books from several local organizations including Catholic high schools and other local colleges.

Kevin Bein, a senior psychology major from Sarasota, Fla., was a team leader last summer on a CUA mission trip to Kigoma. He sees the donation of books for a library as “another step” of that mission.

“It has been really significant to me because as I’ve worked, I have seen the memories, the sights and the sounds of Kigoma in my head,” Mr. Bein said. “The people who have been working around me dont all have those memories, but they are still working just as hard. The amount of donations we received baffles me. Its overwhelming.”

The donations did not go unnoticed by the recipients. In an e-mail to the Rev. Robert Schlageter, university chaplain and director of campus ministry, Brother Stan Goetschalckx of the Brothers of Charity said, “What you are doing is just terrific. Everybody is enthusiastic about how CUA has given itself for this project.”

Before sending the books last Monday, students cataloged them in an online database that is searchable by title, author and subject. In addition to books, CUA donated 20 computers that have been refurbished and loaded with software. The university also is sending hardware to network computer labs in Kigoma.

Student volunteers had two hours on a very rainy Monday to transfer the books and computers from a storage container to a shipping container outside the Campus Ministry office. Father Schlageter and Mr. Bein described the rugged terrain a train would have to travel with the container before reaching Kigoma, where there are no paved roads leading to the town.

The cost of shipping the container - about $7,000 - was covered by a student charity dance, funds from the Brothers of Charity, the Office of Campus Ministry and other donations.

Catholic University and the Brothers of Charity have continued a partnership for 10 years. As part of the joint effort, brothers in Africa and Asia come to CUA to complete degrees in education and nursing. This relationship was strengthened when, in 2007, Catholic University sponsored the Opus Prize and Brother Goetschalckx was honored for his work in Tanzania and received $1 million on behalf of the Brothers of Charity.

CUA’s first mission trip to Tanzania to assist the Brothers of Charity allowed six students to witness firsthand the need for basic educational resources.

“These future teachers, nurses and social workers need the proper tools to work for a better and more just quality of life in the communities of East Africa,” said the Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, university president. “I consider this a very worthy student-initiated project to help the brothers in their important work.”

The brothers requested books in education, nursing and social work but accepted any books that could be part of a basic university-level academic library. Campus Ministry also accepted high school-level textbooks that the brothers will distribute to local schools.

Mary Frances McCarthy is the media relations specialist in the Office of Public Affairs at Catholic University of America.

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