Located on the Western border of Kenya, Kapsowar is a rural village where power and phone lines are a luxury. Dirt roads are lined with wood and thatched houses and stores. There is no plumbing, so water must be carried by gravity from a well for irrigation and any drinking water.
Although the village has only about 17,000 people it is a bustling trading center.
On average about six percent of adults are literate, and the poverty rate is one of the highest in the world. But in this small city, some of these issues are beginning to change.
Kapsowar has services that most villages don’t; it’s home to one of the 47 hospitals in Kenya and, as part of the mission compound the hospital is on, one of the few libraries in the country.
Zeke Rhodes, a transfer student, called Kapsowar his home for years. It’s the current home of his parents, Bill and Laura Rhodes. All three, along with Rhodes’ three other siblings, wanted to change a world incomparable to the one they came from in Fort Collins.
“There are different worlds that exist,” said Rhodes, 21, a health and exercise science major. “Kapsowar is my home, that’s my family, and those are the people I know. It is a different world, but it’s a world we all should know a little bit about.”
The Rhodes family has spent the past seven years working at the Kapsowar Mission Hospital doing everything from helping and teaching in the orphanage to performing medical aid in the hospital to building the library.
And they’ve done it all with humble living conditions.
“It’s a bush lifestyle,” Zeke Rhodes said. “My parents drive a 1981 Land Rover. It’s a 2 1/2 mile dirt road to the hospital. We live in a cinderblock and tin roof house. It is very simple, but nice.”
The Rhodes have in turn received help from the local community.
Books have become the glue for this African community and the city. For the second time, the Rhodes family will be receiving donated books for the Kapsowar library from the community.
“There are no books in the school libraries,” Rhodes said. “So (with this library) they are now available to them. The library acts as an educational source, and education is a huge thing for these kids.”
The book drive has been taking place since September and will run through December.
“This is a generous community,” said Linda Williams, an education instructor and the adviser to a local charity group collecting the books. “I have been told students and staff have lots of books they would like to clean out and give to a worthy cause. We expect to send the shipping container full.”
The shipping container that will travel to Kapsowar by plane, train, bus and on dirt roads can hold up to 50,000 books, which is the goal for Williams and her charity group, the National Charity League. Its subgroup the Ticktockers, headed up by local high school senior Elin Moorman, is also involved.
The groups have only collected a fraction of their goal so far. But Moorman seemed optimistic, and felt that the goal could be made.
A local junior high school student, Annie Haddorff, held the first book drive for the Kenyan village six years ago, giving the Kapsowar community not only 50,000 books but also the library itself.
Organizers are hoping to collect any and all sorts of books, mainly ones in English, ranging from children’s books to novels, to reference and textbooks.
Williams has also involved the help of Greek Life. All fraternity and sorority houses have a book drop spot, along with Lory Student Center main lobby, the LSC Transit Center entrance and near the fountain at the Foothills Fashion Mall.
“It is an amazing program and (Greek Life) is lucky to be involved,” said Leah Kientz, a senior journalism major and vice president of Greek Life Leadership Development for Panhellenic Council.
“I know that what we are doing may not seem like a lot to us,” said Moorman, a senior at Ridgeview Classical Schools and president of the Ticktocker group. “But to them it is a lot that will open up horizons everywhere. I want to make a difference.”
For the children any extra help will be beneficial because they are only educated through eighth grade, and then only a miniscule percent are able to go onto higher education, but it is rare due to the high costs, Rhodes said.
But, the schools in the Kapsowar area have scored higher on tests, he added.
And changes have been seen, Rhodes said. Like with Nora, an orphan that started out by volunteering in the Kapsowar library and is now going to be the first female lawyer in the district.
“It’s hard to relate to things, like having your family die from HIV, and not be able to provide for those around you,” Rhodes said. “There’s the not knowing if you are going to be able to eat tomorrow. There’s the not knowing if you are going to be able to accomplish the dreams you have.”
But Rhodes is hopeful for the future.
“Obviously (the books) have had an impact on the community, and any time you give back to a community that has nothing, it is obviously going to have an impact.”
Staff writer Giulia Pecone contributed to this report.
Staff writer Valerie Hisam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Book drop sites:
-All CSU fraternity and sorority houses
-Main lobby of the LSC
-The LSC Transportation Center entrance
-Near the fountain at the Foothills Fashion Mall
-Ridgeview Classical Schools
-Local schools will be holding individual drives