Mangil’s Library – Interviewing a Changemaker in Education

In 2017, Wedu launched its first ever Special Projects Award. This award invited Rising Stars from across 23 countries to submit project proposals with a vision to be an agent of positive change in their communities. A number of inspiring proposals were submitted and two rose to the top. Alinery’s mission to enable access to educational resources for her community through Mangil’s Library is an inspiring project to empower students and teachers alike. We sat down with Alinery (via Skype) to discuss her project, her community, and her leadership journey.

The library and your personal mission revolve around improving education for your community and beyond – how did you come to this path?

Choosing a library project is very personal to me as the educational system and lack of opportunities had a huge impact on my childhood and continue to resonate today. Growing up, I used to find ways to make money to afford paper for my notebooks, and there were times when I couldn’t afford schoolbooks at all. Even today, students are using course books that have been passed down for years and it’s extremely difficult to acquire up-to-date resources – much less make them available to everyone. I was very fortunate to have a supportive family that recognized the importance of education. I’m the only one in my family to have a university education and they sacrificed a great deal to help me succeed. I come from Sangau, India, where the value of quality education is often undermined by immediate financial needs. I’m also the only woman in my community to have studied abroad, so there are a lot of eyes on me and I understand that projects like this library can accomplish a lot in reshaping my community’s values.

What experiences helped prepare you for undertaking this project?

Well, looking back on the past few years, there have been quite a few experiences that stand out. Working toward improving the quality of the educational system has been my passion ever since I was young but especially since I graduated from Asian University for Women. This platform helped elevate me to greater opportunities: I became closer to my community through my individual research project in 2013; I advocated environmental and human rights issues to a global audience with an international coalition, Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI, Washington DC); and I joined in dialogue about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals with young leaders from around Asia at the Asia-Pacific Youth Exchange program (APYE) in Bangkok just last year.  That’s just to name a few!

There is one more that I think was crucial to the realization of Mangil’s Library: my experience at the International Development Youth Forum, Tokyo, Japan resonated in my heart and taught me that making large scale change in the world can start with identifying a small problem and working with a small project that has great potential for the ripple effect. As soon as I returned from Japan, my mother underwent surgery and I finished the project proposal in three days while taking care of her.

Once the library’s construction is complete, what impact can you foresee?

The project is much more than just building a library – it’s about creating a space that cultivates higher learning. We’ve run a number of  campaigns to collect books and other resources such as laptops ever since the beginning. We’ve also collaborated with Labdoo, an organization that provides unused laptops with educational software for underprivileged students around the world, and we are very grateful for the computer supplies that are being provided from different parts of the world.  

Going even deeper, this pilot project will be a gateway to leverage this school into a fully independent educational institution that provides quality education to students from diverse backgrounds. Together, I hope we’re able to increase awareness about the vital role that school libraries play in transforming lives and fostering a love for learning through the Critical Thinking class program. There are a number of challenges associated with elevating the education standards in my community. Due to compliance and legislation, the full realization could take up to 20 years! But I have long term visions and goals in which this very project is also a pilot project for me to produce as many Rising Stars and ethical future leaders like me to uplift our community and our global world together.

What’s one of the greatest challenges you foresee? Is it the compliance and legislation you mentioned?

That’s definitely an important one, but honestly a lot of the challenges I’ve encountered so far were ones I didn’t really anticipate. I was able to take them head on with the help of a lot of perseverance and the advice from my support network. For example, I didn’t realize how many moving parts there are to building a library! Things like transportation routes for building materials and the rainy season stalled progress for weeks! Fortunately, my brothers are experienced with construction management and their guidance was so important to making sure everything could be completed.

I think overall, challenge will come- certainly, but I’m less nervous about it now. A lot of the leadership lessons with Wedu have been great and this was a very tangible way to put these learnings to the test. I’ve had two mentors, Kelvin and Vittoria, and their insight is invaluable. They’re down to earth, inspiring, and humbling all at the same time. There were some pretty down moments when I felt like I was failing my personal and professional goals, and through our chats I was able to pick myself back up and move forward. There were other times when I was perhaps moving forward too fast and they’ve been great at helping me take a step back and look at the big picture as well.

We are so proud of Alinery and all of her accomplishments! Peruse the album for photos documenting the journey of Mangil’s Library, and be sure to watch the recap video above!

Click here to read our feature on Passang, another winner of our Special Project Award, and her project to be build a community center that became a platform for empowering the voices of women throughout her hometown.

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