Students send Curious George to Africa

December 01, 2005, vol. 34, no. 7
By Diane Luckow

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At the Daughters of Charity Sabina primary school in Sanje, Uganda, children pore over English language books with titles like The Cat in the Hat or Curious George.

The books, most of them previously used, come from Books for Change, a non-profit charity that five SFU students established earlier this year to supply orphans and underprivileged schoolchildren in Africa with supplementary reading materials and educational supplies.

SFU international student Paschal Ssemaganda, an organizer with the charity, says it was the brainchild of Chad Penner, who graduated with a bachelor of applied science degree in June this year. During a trip to Zimbabwe in 2003, Penner learned first-hand of the poor educational resources available for young African students. He convinced four other SFU students - Robin Cairns, Leslie Gibbens, Tenessa Parser, and Ssemaganda - to help him make a difference.

Ssemaganda says the group began by collecting children's books but that soon expanded to include basic textbooks for English, science and mathematics.

So far, he says, the organization has shipped five boxes of books and school supplies to Uganda. The cost of shipping, however, is prohibitive and the group is now hoping to establish partnerships with other organizations that are shipping supplies to Africa.

While Ssemaganda agrees that the books depict a culture completely foreign to the Ugandan children, they are still very useful. “The publishing industry in Africa is driven by profit and these schools can't afford expensive textbooks,” he says. “It's very difficult to get African books in Africa.”

“A lot of people in my courses figure the world's problems are too big to tackle,” says Ssemaganda. “It's important for them to know that many of their peers are doing something to make a positive difference.”

To learn more about this organization visit

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