Following the return of her mother from a teaching trip in Ghana, Samantha Boateng ’20 was inspired to improve the students’ access to books. Boateng was driven by her mother’s depiction of the lack of functioning public libraries there.
During her junior year of high school, Boateng started gathering books for the children in Ghana. What began in 2015 as a small book drive ultimately resulted in the collection of over 14,000 books and 22 computers. Additionally, Boateng and her school community raised approximately $15,000 to support the cause. With the success of the fundraising work, Boateng’s vision quickly grew to include the establishment of Read 2 Lead.
Read 2 Lead is the nonprofit organization founded by Boateng and her mother that has now built and established two permanent libraries in Ghana. The mission of the organization is to build sustainable community libraries by providing the information and facilities needed for learning and discourse and, according to Boateng, to foster a love of reading.
“Basically, our main goal is to encourage education and a love of reading,” Boateng said. “By doing so we build libraries and we hold academic competitions, like Quiz Bowl-type competitions, reading programs and different activities and opportunities for students to further their education.”
The construction of the first library in Accra, Ghana, began in 2016 and was a lengthy process. Boateng recalled that on her first trip to Ghana she was discouraged by all the work that needed to be done.
“It was a long process; it was a lot of work,” Boateng said. “This was our first one; we didn’t really know how to go about everything, so the whole process was really difficult. It took so long for us to open the library because it was large, and when we first went to Ghana we didn’t have enough money fundraised to finish. So, I felt pretty discouraged my first trip.”
Boateng recounts her most memorable moment associated with Read 2 Lead and the joy brought by interacting with the excited children.
“A lot of kids were really excited about the library, so they were all waiting outside the library one day, looking in, trying to see was going on in there and we opened the doors just to let them in because most of the library was done,” Boateng said “… Just seeing how excited they were for something that was still not done, and they were just so happy that someone thought of them to do something like this for them really encouraged me, like a lot. They were running around, jumping. They were all really excited. That was probably one of my best experiences.”
The second library opened in 2017 and is located in the Ashanti region of Ghana. The library was dedicated in honor of Boateng’s grandfather, who built a school in the community over 10 years prior.
Boateng usually travels to Ghana twice a year for about a month at a time during summer and winter breaks to assist in the running of the library operation. The libraries remain functioning with the ongoing support from several local individuals who Boateng said are extremely passionate about keeping the libraries up and running. The locals head the libraries, seek assistance from volunteers and are in constant communication with Boateng and her mom. Boateng said that Read 2 Lead’s projects are very much a community effort, as the building materials for the libraries come from Ghana and the locals themselves assist in the building process.
“Everyone who works there, is from there,” Boateng said. “So it’s really like a community-building initiative where individuals there built the libraries for themselves, for their community.”
On campus, Boateng is involved with the African Cultural Society, dances with the Aphrodite Dance Team, volunteers with Griffin School Partnerships and is a resident assistant. In particular, her involvement with GSP, an organization that supports local schools through classroom assistance, tutoring, mentoring and enrichment programs, is directly related to her work with Read 2 Lead.
“Griffin School Partnerships and African Cultural Society kind of merge together,” Boateng said. “They are both towards my interest because I really am interested and passionate about education, especially for individuals in developing countries like Ghana.”
As for the future of Read 2 Lead, Boateng is optimistic. The organization is currently starting a new project involving shoe and clothing collection as well as establishing the plans for a third library. Read 2 Lead is also partnering with the African Cultural Society, the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the School House Block organizations on campus to raise more funds.
“My number one goal with the organization for the future is … [to] start the process of a third library,” Boateng said. “… Eventually, hopefully we could spread across Africa. Just knowing that students or someone has been positively impacted by the project will make me know that this project has been successful.”