Peace Corps volunteer from St. Charles reaches fund-raising goal for libraries in Cameroon

November 26th, 2009 by bobebill

Wendy Lee img_0818_opt-300x225

By: Shane Anthony
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A few months ago, we wrote about Wendy Lee’s efforts to bring thousands of books to Cameroon. Not long ago, she announced on her blog and on Twitter that she had reached her goal.

Wendy Lee with some of the children from her village in Cameroon.

Lee, a graduate of St. Charles High School and St. Louis University, has been a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon since June of 2008. She started a project called Books for Cameroon with a goal of raising $11,500 to buy 22,000 books. She drew inspiration from children she taught who didn’t know how to read.

In an e-mail interview this week, Lee said she learned the project was fully funded when a retired Peace Corps volunteer e-mailed her. “It’s been a few days now, but I still have a hard time believing that we had raised all the money, and I can finally stop begging,” she wrote. “But more so, I cannot believe I am really going to go build 30 libraries now!”

The begging Lee mentioned took place largely through social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. Officially, 200 donors gave to the project, although Lee thinks others might have donated anonymously. Money for the project came in from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Australia and Italy.

Lee said she has been visiting some of the schools she is working with to check their progress in preparing the libraries. “That was really rewarding to see things moving forward,” she said.

She said a team of volunteers is designing library management training that will take place around January and working on ironing out the logistics of moving the books from a 40-foot shipping container into the new libraries.

In between her work on the book project and teaching classes, Lee has blogged about her experiences living in a village without running water and shoddy electricity.

She also has kept in touch with her family through e-mail and Skype. Her parents, Jimmy and Susan Lee, live in St. Charles. Younger sister Sherry is a college sophomore in the northeast.

Susan Lee said Wednesday that she is very proud of both of her daughters and their hard work. Wendy Lee moved to the United States from Tawain in 1998. The rest of her family followed in 2000. Susan Lee said both her daughters had to study hard to learn a new language.

Wendy Lee now speaks at least four.

“I’m really proud of her doing such a big project,” Susan Lee said.

You can follow Wendy Lee’s blog here and the Books for Cameroon Facebook page here. She said she hopes supporters will follow the project’s progress.

Meanwhile, she is preparing for the next step in her life — applying to graduate schools in the U.S. and Europe to study international relations and economic public policy.

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