FRIDAY NOVEMBER 25, 2005
Book value “This is my time.
My time to give back,
to listen, to be part of a
team to support literacy
education in Africa.”
Villagers to receive
the gift of literacy
Spillberg, who lives in the Fox She wound up going to Suffolk
Point neighborhood, realizes that her University, in Boston.
contribution is small, a drop in the After graduation, Spillberg began
bucket. But she hopes that the ripple teaching at the Martin Luther King Jr.
effects from her books will travel well School, a public elementary school in
beyond Arua. Cambridge, Mass. It was there that she
“This is my time,” she says, "My met her husband, Richard, a guitarist
time to give back, to listen, to be part and music producer.
of a team to support literacy education One day, Spillberg walked into her
in Africa.” school library and saw a sign that said
SPILLBERG’S FAMILY lived in “Free Books.”
Uganda during the brutal dictatorship She paused and thought, “Why not
of Idi Amin. Her father was a profes- take these books back to Africa?”
sor who had been educated in Europe. She decided to teach her kinder-
In 1974, Amin got wind of plans to garten class about Africa. During one
overthrow his goverment. lesson, she removed every book from
The seditious letter was suppos- the classroom and asked her students
Rachael Adriko Spillberg, of Providence, will travel next month to her hometown of Arua, edly traced back to the university to share the same book, just as the
Uganda to deliver 5,000 books to schoolchildren who regard a book as a cherished possession.
where Spillberg’s father worked. children of Uganda do.
Fearing reprisals, the family fled across They hated it, but they were also
BY LINDA BORG On Dec. 26, she will travel to her
JOURNAL STAFF WRITER the border to Kenya. stunned to learn that so many chil-
hometown of Arua, a rural village in When Spillberg was in seventh dren had so little.
PROVIDENCE — There is an old Uganda, to deliver 5,000 books to a grade, her family returned to Uganda, Spillberg launched her book drive,
African saying that girls pave the way region where universal literacy is more but it was not an easy time. The tapping colleagues and friends for
between two cultures. a promise than a reality. Ugandan people were scarred by 10 donations. Before long, the pile had
Rachel Adriko Spillberg, an African From there, one of the villagers years of bloody civil war. People were grown from 200 books to 500, from
woman who was born into privilege in will travel by bicycle to deliver the gift frightened and distrustful. 500 to 1,000. Her husband’s company,
a country torn apart by civil war, says of literacy to hundreds of school- An aunt urged Spillberg — by Lighthouse Medical Management of
it is her obligation to give something children in the country's northwest then, a rebellious teenager — to get Providence, joined in the effort; it later
back. corner. out of Africa and move to America. shipped 600 books to Africa.
Rachael Adriko Spillberg, sorts some of the books she’s boxed in the basement of her Providence home. She hopes to deliver 5,000 books to children in her hometown of Arua, Uganda, on Dec. 26.
Meanwhile, Spillberg had asked lage turned out to bless the library and of civil unrest, families were used to
her aunt to approach the village elders invoke the spirit of longevity. Ten- soldiers taking everything they had.
about starting a library in Arua. foot-long Akadinda xylophones and The children were simply trying to
They were delighted. Adungu wind instruments were protect a cherished possession.
One of the elders said, “I think the played, calling the villagers to cele- “Worship that book,” she told the
books should be enjoyed by the peo- brate. children. “Honor that book. It could
ple of other villages. I have a bicycle.” “As the musicians carved the take you beyond the borders of your
Another said, “I have a box to go wood,” Spillberg says, “I could see that village.”
on the back of the bicycle.” my mission was a lot more important A library is so much more than the
And a third said, “I know someone than I had thought.” four walls that contain it. A library can
who will ride the bicycle.” The community began singing and exist wherever books are read and
LAST CHRISTMAS, Spillberg and dancing in unison, to welcome the loved.
her husband traveled to Uganda with arrival of the library. When Spillberg “Literate children will go back to
their boxes of books. began handing out her books, the chil- their communities,” Spillberg says.
Their first stop, on Dec. 26, was dren lunged forward, their hands out- “Literate children will help their fam-
Vurra, where her entourage met with stretched. ilies make greater profits on their
the villagers, most of whom are strug- “It broke my heart,” Spillberg says, farms. And increased literacy will one
gling to live with HIV. “that in 2005, African children would day help Uganda grow out of the Third
“I could see the community danc- be fighting for books as if they were World.” Anyone who has books or ideas to
ing and swaying mango branches, the food.” THIS CHRISTMAS, Spillberg share may contact Spillberg by e-mail at
children dressed in their Sunday best,” BECAUSE THESE children had again will return to her village — this email@example.com
Spillberg recalled. never seen a library, Spillberg had to time, with 5,000 books. Once again,
“We talked about AIDS and how it explain how one worked. the villagers will welcome their visitors
affected the village. From a teacher to When the bell rings, she told them, with song and dance, the children will
a reverend to a mother of nine chil- bring the books back to me. But press together in anticipation, the eld-
dren, it was clear that the village had instead of giving the books back, the ers will bless the books and offer
created a community where everyone children ran for the hills. thanks. “It is my duty to help my peo-
had a role.” Spillberg was stunned. She had ple,” she says, "my duty that lead me
The grand finale was in Arua. As never seen a child hide a book. back home to this culture that I belong
Spillberg approached, the entire vil- Then it dawned on her. After years to.”