It is a remarkable coincidence that two Maltese pioneering voluntary projects supporting the educational sector have travelled to East Africa at the same time last week.
For the last five years Lawrence Zerafa has been pursuing his dream with a project that has supported 63 libraries in East Africa. Zerafa is the former head librarian of MCAST. Since 2017 he has worked as a volunteer with Voluntiera Lajċi Missjunarji. When he is in East Africa he trains library staff, lecturers and students in the region.
Sourcing sponsors is not easy but Zerafa has support from a number of loyal supporters. He also collects donated books, magazines, DVDs and stationery items. These are shipped to libraries in schools and educational establishments around East Africa that are managed by the Salesians, Jesuits, Sisters of the Adoration and the Sisters of Notre Dame.
Thirty tons worth of books and equipment for the use of students from pre-primary to post-tertiary levels were packed in 1,332 boxes this year. They were shipped in containers with some difficulty and substantial costs. In each East African town, local agents oversaw the distribution to individual libraries.
During the same week Keith Marshall, Chief Philanthropy officer of the SiGMA Foundation, traveled with a team of colleagues and supporters to Ethiopia to inaugurate three schools that will provide education for over a thousand children. The three-year-long project was supported by €300,000 donated in funds raised by previous expeditions to Camino di Santiago.
“The school will bring hope and change in Bonga,” said Austin Cachia, the Foundation’s treasurer, and Keith’s right-hand man. “This is the result of hard work and dedication of countless people who have come together to make a change in this world.”
SiGMA News spoke with Victor Vella who is the current librarian at MCAST. He says that he admires Zerafa who held the position of Chairman of the Malta Library Association. He added ” Lawrence was also head librarian at MCAST. He is doing a great job that no one would imagine doing as it requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice. He is a very good and humble person and although he did ask me to accompany him on his trip I had to decline because of my family responsibility. I believe that the projects in Africa by the SiGMA Foundation and Lawrence Zerafa are commendable. Each and every person who has the opportunity must do their very best to support improving educational strategies in Africa.”
Zerafa returns to Malta from East Africa in the middle of May. He says “ Although I am not involved in the SiGMA school project in Ethiopia, I think it is a very good project for many reasons.”. Apart from the obvious support for the advancement of education in Africa, Zerafa refers to the school named after Becs Zammit Lupi. He says ”it has also changed the grief of a person into a living memorial of immense solid value for many decades to come.” Zerafa concludes “Kudos to the initiators and supporters of the SiGMA Foundation project.”
Speaking with SiGMA News, Keith Marshall “What Lawrence has managed to bring together is nothing short of remarkable. The man is clearly a force to be reckoned with. And the fact that he spends such a substantial period of time helping out with the underprivileged speaks volumes. Long may he continue with his journey”.
Marshall and Zerafa will discuss future collaborative projects in May once Lawrence returns to Malta.