Valexa Orelien Founded a Secondary School Library in Swaziland

Valexa Orelien is a senior here at Apex High who worked to collect books to start a library in Swaziland through the African Book Project. Peak Student Media sat down with her to learn more about her experience.

What motivated you to initiate this drive?

“So I’m president…and founder of this club called National Achievers
Society… it’s a society where…we try to include all races and pretty much educate people about…different minorities and things like that. One of the activities we were doing for this was the African Library Project. I just wanted it to be kind of a thing where people can learn more about minorities and learn… everyone can be trying to seek…higher education even the people…all the way in Africa and…they might be underprivileged, but they’re still seeking different ways to get knowledge.”

What is the African Library Project exactly?

“So pretty much it is a project where you collect 1,000 books, and then you collect $500, and then you start a library either in Swaziland, Botswana, or Kenya, I think are the available options, and it can be like anywhere from like a primary school, so for like little kids, to a high school…we started one in Swaziland for a secondary school.”

And how successful was the project?

“It was pretty successful. We didn’t quite hit the goal for the money, but we did collect over 1,000 books…”

Who donated these books?

“Pretty much all students from Apex High…I was actually pretty surprised how much everyone got involved and…brought books; people brought 8, 10 books at times [and] some teachers brought their own children’s books and things like that.

So how easy was it for you to make a difference?

“Not very easy. To be honest, when we first started I was really worried because we were not getting any books in the beginning. I would check every week, and there would be two more books…I was just really worried…we need 1,000 books, and we have like 30. And then towards the end it started picking up momentum…but we just had to figure out ways to advertise around the school and get more people to know what we were doing. “

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to do a similar project?

“Some advice that I would give to someone trying to do something similar is to plan from the beginning, and make sure you know what you have to do; I did not realize I would have to collect $500, and I didn’t realize it would be such a struggle. [I thought] Apex is a pretty nice area, [and] people would be willing to donate; yeah, that didn’t really happen. So I would definitely say plan from the get-go, and plan how you are going to advertise to everyone and like show…kind of incentivise it. Even though it kinda stinks [that] you have to incentivise something that’s going for the greater good, try to find ways to incentivise it so that people will want to get involved.”

What was the biggest thing you learned from doing this project?

“The biggest thing I’ve learned from doing this is, I mean, how talented these people in Swaziland are. I mean I’m just imagining…English is probably not their first language, and that’s amazing that they’re starting a whole library over there [where] kids can come from all over the place [and] learn how to read, not only a different language, but read upper level books…Also, I learned how hard it is to organize a book drive because I was like, “Oh, it’s just books like collecting books,” but there’s a lot of stuff that goes into it.”

What are your future plans after Apex High School?

“I plan to study computer science at a university somewhere…I’m considering right now between NC State, UNC, and Stanford University.”

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