CALLAWAY, Neb. — Children in an African village who had never seen a storybook before will have a library full of books, thanks to a Custer County native.
Whitney Jenkins, the daughter of Jim and Julianna Jenkins of Callaway, has been serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Senegalese village of Sinchurio Samba Foula for two years. Although her primary Peace Corps assignment has been in agroforestry, working with local farmers, the library project has been an enjoyable secondary interest.
It started because of the interest village children showed in one of the old storybooks that Jenkins' mom sent her. Because the Senegalese don't speak English, Jenkins didn't know whether the children would understand the story, and she questioned her ability to translate it into their native language, Pulaar.
“I read them the story of 'The Hare and the Tortoise,' and they were absolutely enchanted,” she said. “They begged me to read it two more times before I finally kicked them out of my hut and told them I would tell it to them again tomorrow. Now, the book is worn from being read so many times, and all of my younger host siblings can recite the story by memory.”
Jenkins said she believes her books are the only books in her entire village, and her main goal with the project is to show the children the value of books and reading.
She hopes to translate all of the books she receives into Pulaar because she believes it's important to preserve their local language, even while French is being taught in schools. French is the language of business and education in Senegal.
“It's amazing to see the kind of response I have gotten in such a short period of time,” Jenkins said.
Donations have been used to buy a bookcase made in her village and to cover the costs of picking up books at the post office.
Jenkins is leaving the village soon for a new assignment. She will transfer the library project and donations to her replacement, who will arrive in Senegal in September and go to the village in November.
To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/3ayqdc.