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2013.04.02 > For Immediate Release
contact: Charley Reed - University Communications
phone: 402.554.2129 - email: cdreed@unomaha.edu

UNO Students to Bring Dream of Public Library in Cameroon to Clinton Conference

Omaha - Sister Rosemary Arrah had all but given up on a chance to present her dream of a library in her native Cameroon to those who could help her make the dream a reality. Now, after two previous attempts and with the help of two fellow students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), Arrah will get the chance to share her vision at this year’s Clinton Global Initiative University Conference.

Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) is an offshoot of the Clinton Global Initiative, which was formed in 2005 by former President Bill Clinton to bring together global leaders to create and implement solutions to the world’s most significant problems. CGIU focuses on the work of university and college students, which submit commitments to action to address worldwide issues such as access to healthcare, hunger and literacy.

Earlier this year, Arrah, a graduate student studying special education at UNO; Benadette Ngamelue, a biotechnology major; and Larisa Akah, a general science major submitted a proposal to CGIU that laid out a $16,000 plan to create the first primary school library at St. Joseph Elementary School in the city of Mamfe.

The project, named Readingdrive, was accepted to CGIU in early March, meaning Arrah, Mgamelue and Akah will travel to Washington University in St. Louis on Friday, April 5, for the three-day conference, where they will have the chance to hear from world leaders in business, politics and philanthropy, including President Clinton and his daughter Chelsea.

“We are so grateful and blessed and overjoyed to go to CGIU,” said Akah, who submitted the proposal on behalf of her group.

The success of the project was serendipitous. Before this project, the three women had never worked together on something so impactful.

“I was working on designing a project that will help improve STEM education especially among girls in Cameroon secondary schools,” Akah explained. “Through a conversation with Sr. Rosemary I discovered she was working on a project of improving literacy in a primary school in Cameroon.

“She had earlier applied for the CGIU twice but failed and I urged her to apply a third time,” Akah continued. “We decided to apply as a group and included our friend Benadette to work with us.”

There is also a chance the students could earn $5,000 towards their $16,000 goal through something called the Social Venture Challenge, which allows all of the groups submitting proposals to compete for seed funding. The money would provide a significant step forward for the group and for Cameroon.

“Books are very expensive; parents would rather buy food for their children than books,” Arrah, who was born and raised in Mamfe, explained. “We believe that the children are willing to read, they only in access to books and opportunity.”

While there are a large number of book donations given to African countries throughout the year, the students all agree that there is no real oversight to make sure the books are being used. Many end up sitting in storage closets.

“Children are not taught to read at home early enough and most elementary schools are not equipped to deal with this problem,” Ngamelue said. “Our commitment seeks to build a library and encourage the teachers and students to use it in building a reading culture.”

For more information on Readingdrive, or for media inquiries, contact Charley Reed at 402.554.2129. For information on Clinton Global Initiative University, visit www.cgiu.org.


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The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s metropolitan university. The core values of the institution place students at the center of all that the university does; call for the campus to strive for academic excellence; and promote community engagement that transforms and improves urban, regional, national and global life. UNO, inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908.

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