Del Sur Elementary 5th Grader Helps Build Library in Africa

A lot of 5th grade boys are into video games, or skateboarding, or playing youth sports. Watching TV is usually a favorite interest. Music, maybe; even movies.

But 10-year-old Park Begley builds libraries. In Africa.

Begley, son of Collin and Sara Begly of The Lakes, helped raise $4,500 to build a school library in Malawi – located in southeast Africa, and known as one of the world’s least developed and most densely populated nations on the continent.

And then, with the support and assistance of Del Sur Elementary School Principal Doug Johnson and his teacher, Britta Ellis, Begley raised another $2,500 to purchase books for the new library.

And when the opportunity to travel to the Malawi village of Tchawale – where the library was constructed – Begley and Del Sur Elementary students and teachers launched a book drive, allowing them to take five huge boxes of books on their trip to ensure the new facility opened with reading materials immediately available.

What was young Begley’s inspiration? “Basically my Aunt Meagan Wyllie was working for the Peace Corps teaching science in a secondary school in the village of Tchawale,” he said. “Before she left two years ago, we talked about doing a service project together.”

While in Africa, Begley’s aunt noticed that the village primary school had no library – and the project was launched.

Obviously being on hand for the village library’s opening was special for the youngster. “The entire community will be able to use (the library). When I was visiting, I met a group of women from the village that plan to use the library to meet twice a week for literacy classes,” Begley said. “They didn’t have a village school when they were growing up, so now they can learn to read too.”

It’s not surprising that Begley mentions the literacy classes, as reading is very important to him. “My favorite subject in school is reading…that’s why I was so surprised when I heard that this school in Africa had few books, if any,” he said. “How can students not have books?”

But Begley has other interests as well, like all 5th grade boys. “I’m from a family of all boys (brothers Gabe, 9; Cael, 4; and Tag, 1½), so we really like sports,” he said. “I’m (also) taking guitar lessons…”

With the library now open, what’s next for Begley?

“Since I’ve been back, Mr. Johnson has been very supportive and asked me to share my experiences and pictures with my class and then the whole school. It was nice to share with my classmates and show them how they helped the village,” he said. “It made me realize that we could continue to do projects like this in the future.”

In fact, Begley’s teacher has now asked him to be the classroom representative to look for new projects in the community. “I’m really excited about these new responsibilities.”