Sadik Antwi-Boampong spent every weekend as a child in the library with a stack of books, eagerly turning the pages.
“Reading changed my life. It increased my comprehension. Even math was easier,” he says. “It helped me to excel academically and get into MIT.”
Now this 20-year-old sophomore, who was raised in Ghana, the son of a librarian, recently fulfilled his dream to establish the first library in Nsuta, an underprivileged town of 20,000. “If the library makes a difference in just one person’s life, I’ll be really glad,” says Antwi-Boampong, adding the library opens this summer.
“Africa is ravaged by disease and hunger and is so behind,” he says. “If a revolution is needed to change this, it has to be based on education. If Africa is educated, we stand a really strong chance of moving forward.”
Last spring, he wrote an essay for a class about his dream to create a library in an underprivileged town, and the professor encouraged him to pursue it. First he began talking with people who could help, then wrote a proposal highlighting his personal commitment and statistics on how poorly children in that area were doing in school.
Next, he convinced Books for Africa to donate two computers and 7,000 books, including atlases, novels, and textbooks, and books about geography, English, science, art, architecture, and more.
Committed to the project, he got a fellowship from MIT’s Public Service Center and flew to Ghana. There, he traveled to various regions, where he stood before hundreds of school children ages 4 to 18 to tell them about the value of libraries and reading, and how it can change your life.
“After talking to one group for about an hour,” he says, “a small girl raised her hand and said, ‘I keep hearing the word, library. What is a library?’” The need for one was clear.
Later, he connected with a member of Parliament who volunteered to donate a run-down town council building to establish the library. And now, the government of Ghana has promised to provide the funds to renovate the one-story pink stucco building that opens this June.
“What I learned is that it’s possible to make a difference in society with the few resources you have. People think, I’ll do something for someone else when I get the money,” he says. “But there’s so much around us that we can use to make a difference now.”