Volunteers change lives by building libraries
GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- The look on the faces of the children says it all.
They are absolutely delighted to experience a library. Some of them, for the first time.
"They'd never been in a library. And a lot of kids came up, and when they were opening the books, they treated it like pages of gold,” said Tyler Clark of Allouez.
Tyler is describing his recent trip to a remote community in Mexico.
In November, he led a group of 22 volunteers there, to build a library, complete with books and computers.
"It makes such a huge impact. And these kids and single mothers and fathers, They've never had anything like this before,” said Tyler.
His wife, Rebekah, was there too.
"It was just amazing. It was heartwarming. I felt like I went out there, thinking, 'We're going to give so much to these people,' and we did. And they appreciated it. But at the same time, I felt like we got so much out of it,” said Rebekah Clark, of Allouez.
The Clarks are passionate about serving others. That's a big reason why two years ago, Tyler started an effort that this year has grown into "Village Book Builders."
For them, it's been life-changing.
"You go and it's a transformative experience. Because you serve and you live and you get this cultural experience, and you make a real impact,” said Tyler.
Each volunteer raised about $500 to pay for their trip and library materials. In all, the group raised about $10,000.
"I think I took a lot more out of it than I expected to, just with interactions,” said Mitchell Lipke.
Lipke is a student at St. Norbert College. He was one of the volunteers.
"I had the opportunity to live with a family down there for a week. And that was one of the best things that I've ever done. They were so thankful. And it was astonishing how accepting they were,” said Lipke.
After the library was built, the community members held a celebration, complete with a dance, to say, "thank you."
The entire experience is something these volunteers will never forget.
"I remember when we were leaving, our van was driving out and all the little kids in the village were following our van, saying, ‘No, don’t go!'" said Rebekah.
“When we left, there was no one that wasn’t crying,” said Tyler.
Tyler says he knows their work is making a difference, and will continue, for years to come: "Not only were we serving, but also going down there to build something that's going to be there for generations."
Tyler and another group of volunteers will be building more libraries in the coming year.
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There are plans already to build in Mexico and Africa.