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Rib Lake couple share love of learning and service

Rib Lake couple share love of learning and service Rib Lake couple share love of learning and service

Tammie and Roger Blomberg take part in library building mission with Village Book Builders in Belize

There is something special about books.

Tammie and Roger Blomberg of Rib Lake were looking for ways to give back and to share their passion for literacy and libraries.

Tammie Blomberg is the library director at the Rib Lake Public Library and is especially passionate about the role libraries can play in communities as centers of learning and gathering places.

“I was looking for something, some type of mission type work that would involve libraries,” Tammie said, noting she was looking for something on the order of a Peace Corps type of experience to be able to share her expertise with others.

Her daughter was watching a local news program in Green Bay and saw a piece about Tyler and Rebekah Clark and their nonprofit organization called Village Book Builders.

“My daughter told me ‘you need to get ahold of them,’” Tammie said.

Village Book Builders is a nonprofit organization that was founded by the Clarks in order to bring libraries to impoverished communities in the developing work. The groups’ mission statement is “Empowering villages by establishing libraries to create hope in ending the cycle of poverty.”

The Clark’s first library was in Mexico with the couple raising $5,000 on their own to get the library built.

Tammie was intrigued and contacted the organization about ways she could help out. For their part, the organizers were thrilled to have someone with library experience and quickly got her into the organization.

“I knew the best way was to be hands on,” Tammie said about the organization asking her input on how the libraries are being set up. When she found out they were building a library in Belize, she knew she needed to be part of it.

Roger’s uncle, Ed Blomberg, had been on a mission in Belize and Roger had been there.

“Contrary to popular opinion, Belize is very much a third world country and it is very impoverished,” Roger said.

The couple decided to take part in a trip to establish a library in the community of San Lazaro which is located in the interior portion of Belize. While there the stayed in Yo Creek about five to 10 miles from the library site with John and Leesha Castille who they knew with the Roger’s uncle’s mission work. The remainder of the group stayed in the community of Orange Walk but was hosted for meals and meetings with the family.

During the trip, which ran from Dec. 27 to Jan. 5, they worked to convert two rooms from a local school into a community library. Work including painting and cataloging books and setting up 10 laptops that had been donated into a computer lab.

Because the building has poor internet service, they installed a RACHEL server. RACHEL is a portable plugand- play server which stores educational websites and makes that content available over any local (offline) wireless connection.

They also set up and catalogued the 650 books that they had brought with them to start the library collection. “In six days eight of us did all the work to set up an entire library,” Tammie said.

She noted that the group was the smallest one that they had sent out to start a library and there was some concern if the project would be completed on time. “We proved them wrong,” Tammie said. “We are small, but mighty.”

For Tammie a special memory of her trip was when they were finishing cataloging the materials. She said she was having back pain from sitting a make-shift desk. “I was outside and stretching and was in tears,” she said, noting her concern that she may not be able to make it to get the last 15 books entered.

She said a little girl named Denise sat down next to here and handed me a book one at a time and watched as I entered it and then handed her the next one. “I call her my little angel,” Tammie said, noting that without the girl’s help and presence she is not sure it would have gotten done.

Roger had a similar experience sharing his drawing talents with a young student. “It was so rewarding, and I would love to do it again,” he said.

The trip culminated with a grand opening celebration for the library with a pig roast in a traditional pit cooking style with layers of banana leaves. Roger explained that is the Belize version of a luau and it is considered a great honor to have one thrown for an event.

Tammie said it was a lot of work, but that it was satisfying to know that she was able to make a change in the resident’s lives. “We made a generational difference,” Tammie said. “It is not just the kids but in the entire community,” she said noting that without the access to the learning and information in the library materials, the children talked about growing up to be wives, mothers, working in the cane fields or soldiers. She said with the access to the learning available in the books, they can go on to be doctors, lawyers and engineers and bring that knowledge back to their community.

Tammie noted that in the United States, people take education for granted and students sometimes chafe at being at school.

“In Belize they want to be at school,” she said.

Beyond just building libraries around the world, Village Book Builders provides support for those libraries and educational resources for the communities where they are located.

One such way they do this is through online mentorship programs, where volunteers in the United States go online and match with students in another country to read with them, help them with their homework and teach them. Tammie noted that all volunteers go through background checks and that the time devoted is usually between 30 and 60 minutes a week from their own home computers.

Blomberg will be taking it a step further and plans to set up joint reading activities between Rib Lake Public Library and libraries in the Village Book Builders program that will allow young people from here to interact with youth from other areas during the storytime. The challenge she said is matching when the storytimes are in Taylor County with the hours of the libraries around the world.

“We are working on it,” she said, adding that she was hoping to get it set up in the near future.

Those interested in learning more about getting involved with Village Boook Builders can find out more information about the organization online at www.villagebookbuilders. org. There, people can find resources on how to help their efforts and sign up.