2007.05.17: May 17, 2007: Headlines: COS - Ghana: Marriage: Service: Libraries: City of Akron: Ghana RPCVs Hilda and Kirt Bromley have been feeding the hungry in Africa for 10 years — not with food, but with information

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ghana: Peace Corps Ghana : Peace Corps Ghana: Newest Stories: 2007.05.17: May 17, 2007: Headlines: COS - Ghana: Marriage: Service: Libraries: City of Akron: Ghana RPCVs Hilda and Kirt Bromley have been feeding the hungry in Africa for 10 years — not with food, but with information

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Ghana RPCVs Hilda and Kirt Bromley have been feeding the hungry in Africa for 10 years — not with food, but with information

Ghana RPCVs Hilda and Kirt Bromley have been feeding the hungry in Africa for 10 years — not with food, but with information

The Bromleys met 40 years ago, when Kirt was in Ghana with the Peace Corps. In 1969, they married and came to the United States. For a two-year period in the 1970s, they lived again in Ghana, then moved back permanently to the Akron area in 1977. In 1997, the Bromleys collected 3,000 books and donations to pay for the shipping to Ghana. They set up that first library in Kukurantumi, Hilda’s hometown. By 1999, they set up their nonprofit organization to continue the project. Their efforts have grown considerably. This year, the couple set up four new libraries and oversaw the arrival of more than 30,000 donated books, which were distributed to the four libraries and two institutions. In addition, the couple distributed more than 100 pairs of eyeglasses donated by Akron residents, and some medical equipment their daughter, an oriental medicine practitioner, donated. They also gave out 4,000 rosaries to churches in the regions where the libraries were set up. The Bromleys started the project to help the people of Ghana, but there were other reasons, too. “The first part of this mission is to establish libraries, but we also want to give an avenue for Americans to reach out and help other people,” Kirt said. The Bromleys have organized the project into a yearly schedule. They start from scratch each year in April, when they begin accepting donations and filling up their two-car garage. The books are then catalogued according to the Dewey Decimal System, thanks to the help of volunteers who assist the couple. Then the first week in October, a 40-foot-long shipping container pulls into their driveway, and the books are loaded in.

Ghana RPCVs Hilda and Kirt Bromley have been feeding the hungry in Africa for 10 years — not with food, but with information

Copley couple spreads the written word

Caption: Hilda and Kirt Bromley began the Books for Africa Library Project in 1997 and have since established 37 libraries in Hilda’s homeland of Ghana. Photos: Ken Crisafi

By Kathleen Folkerth

COPLEY — Hilda and Kirt Bromley have been feeding the hungry in Africa for 10 years — not with food, but with information.

The Copley couple are the founders of the Books for Africa Library Project, for which they collect thousands of books each year and ship them to Ghana, Hilda’s birthplace, and create community libraries.

As of this year, the Bromleys have established 37 libraries. In contrast, the Ghana Library Board, the country’s national library system, operates 52 libraries.

“When they come in and see all those books, they are amazed,” Hilda said. “It makes them so happy.”

“They see books as real treasures,” Kirt said. “For Americans to donate, many are deeply touched by that.”

The Bromleys met 40 years ago, when Kirt was in Ghana with the Peace Corps. In 1969, they married and came to the United States. For a two-year period in the 1970s, they lived again in Ghana, then moved back permanently to the Akron area in 1977.

Kirt, 61, worked as a schoolteacher, most recently at Margaret Park Elementary School, retiring in 2002.

Hilda, 60, had worked as a nurse in local nursing homes, such as Rockynol Retirement Community, but retired when she found out she had a brain tumor in 1996 and needed surgery.

It was her illness that inspired Hilda to do something for the people of her homeland. She said she felt that God was telling her to start the project.

In 1997, the Bromleys collected 3,000 books and donations to pay for the shipping to Ghana. They set up that first library in Kukurantumi, Hilda’s hometown. By 1999, they set up their nonprofit organization to continue the project.

Their efforts have grown considerably. This year, the couple set up four new libraries and oversaw the arrival of more than 30,000 donated books, which were distributed to the four libraries and two institutions.

In addition, the couple distributed more than 100 pairs of eyeglasses donated by Akron residents, and some medical equipment their daughter, an oriental medicine practitioner, donated. They also gave out 4,000 rosaries to churches in the regions where the libraries were set up.

The Bromleys started the project to help the people of Ghana, but there were other reasons, too.

“The first part of this mission is to establish libraries, but we also want to give an avenue for Americans to reach out and help other people,” Kirt said.

The response from Northeast Ohio has been positive. One day last week, the Bromleys spent the morning making a trip to Ashland University to pick up the school’s annual donation. They returned to their home with their two vehicles full of boxes of books.

People come to them, too. They said at one point a person from Genesee, N.Y., drove here with a car full of books for the project.

“They were touched and they wanted to do something,” Hilda said.

The Bromleys have organized the project into a yearly schedule. They start from scratch each year in April, when they begin accepting donations and filling up their two-car garage. The books are then catalogued according to the Dewey Decimal System, thanks to the help of volunteers who assist the couple. Then the first week in October, a 40-foot-long shipping container pulls into their driveway, and the books are loaded in.

“It’s quite a sight,” Kirt said.

The container takes six to eight weeks to arrive in Ghana. Meanwhile, the Bromleys close up their house and set out to meet the shipment, leaving the first week of November. They have a warehouse in Kukurantumi — actually, their home there — from where the books are distributed.

They spend the next few months helping to set up new libraries and distributing books. They also hold in-services for the library staffs to help them in the operation of their libraries.

In April, the Bromleys return to Copley, and their work begins again. This year they returned April 18, and by April 20 they went to pick up their first donation of the year.

Throughout the year, the couple receives requests from communities in Ghana that are interested in the program. The organization has been set up so there are certain conditions a community must meet in order to receive the Bromleys’ help.

“They have to have a building, shelves, electricity, benches and tables and have a paid librarian,” Hilda said.

They must also set up a board of trustees to oversee the library.

The Bromleys have expanded their mission in recent years to address a growing problem in Ghana — abuse of alcohol and drugs. They said the problem in that part of the world is partly to blame on American culture.

“Growing up in Ghana, older people used to drink, but it wasn’t a problem,” Hilda said. “Now it’s the young people. They look old but they are still young. There’s such hopelessness.”

The availability of illegal drugs like cocaine, heroin and marijuana also has been a growing problem.

“They tell me, ‘We are imitating you Americans,’” Hilda said. “People think it’s all right because they see it in the movies or on TV.”

“The image of the West used to be cowboys and gangsters,” Kirt said. “Now it’s driving cars recklessly and taking drugs.”

The couple has brought information about Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to Ghana and held seminars on alcohol and drug abuse at its in-services. At one workshop this year, two new AA groups were begun, Kirt said. The Bromleys also are starting up a treatment center for alcoholics in Kukurantumi.

The couple celebrated the 10th year of the project with activities in Ghana. Now they plan to celebrate in Akron at their annual fund-raising event, which will take place May 19 at 5:30 p.m. at the social hall at St. Bernard Church in Downtown Akron. A buffet dinner will be served, and Touch of Spring, which features Kirt as a member, will provide music. The couple also will show slides of their most recent trip to Ghana and discuss their efforts. Admission to the event is free, but donations will be collected.

All money raised for the project goes directly to shipping the books to Ghana, Kirt said. The organization is run on about $25,000 a year. The Bromleys pay for their own transportation and food on their trips, he added.

The people of Ghana have been appreciative to the Bromleys for their work, but the couple themselves are happy that they can do what they do.

“There’s a deep amazement in the work because God’s spirit seems to be moving through it all,” Kirt said. “People are coming to us. They say, ‘I want to be a part of it. I want to touch other people through it.’”

“We are very grateful,” added Hilda.

For more information on the Books for Africa Library Project, contact the Bromleys at (330) 666-6816 or at kirt bromley@yahoo.com. They also have a Web site at www.forafricalibrary.org.





Hilda and Kirt Bromley began the Books for Africa Library Project in 1997 and have since established 37 libraries in Hilda’s homeland of Ghana. Photos: Ken Crisafi




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Story Source: City of Akron

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ghana; Marriage; Service; Libraries

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