Programs & Initiatives

Library Building Program


Libraries are portals to all of the world’s knowledge. Yet people in rural and poor communities are the least likely to have access to information and use it to their benefit to improve their daily lives. MER first began building libraries in 2012 in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, a rural area where schools, funding, teachers, and resources are scarce. To date, five libraries have been installed: Ithongasi JSS, Mdatya JSS, Stanford SPS, Zamokuhle JSS and Ngcingo JSS. These libraries have been established in schools where the average class has 75 students.


The Matthew E. Russell Foundation views the installment of a library as a small seed for community growth. The goal of the Foundation is to support the establishment of libraries in under-developed, under-funded, urban townships and rural schools in order to increase student literacy levels, improve teaching methods, and build community support for education reform.


Finally, as we are passionate about these efforts producing a fruitful, continuing and lasting return, we place great importance in also providing the proper and age-appropriate textiles/materials in the libraries which are conducive to learning and inspiring literacy, overlooking no detail or aspect of the learning experience. We are committed to constructing libraries of excellence with skilled carpenters who have decades of experience. Each library is fully equipped with new and gently used books, reference materials, and new up to date technology such as e-readers, computers, printers and flat screen televisions to name a few.


The Matthew E. Russell Foundation has also provided the physical space for the library, paper books and and technology equipment. This project has brought a tremendous change for the schools selected and their communities. The Mattthew E. Russell Foundation is continually looking for ways to expand with new partnerships with individuals, institutions and businesses who support our efforts. To contact us on how you can help CLICK HERE.


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World Reader Blue Box e-Reader Program

Across South Africa too many children have never experienced the world through reading. This is because over 80% of students in South Africa do not have a library. Books are necessary for the development of literacy skills yet millions of children in the region we work still lack access to books. We are changing this reality through digital libraries with the Worldreader BLUE Box e-reading program.

Many schools in and surrounding the Eastern Cape community have never had a library before, and the concept of a library in this community doesn’t even exist. This area is populated with rural dwellers (farmers) who have been identified as the poorest of the poor. When the community members, district advisors and officials were informed about the project, nobody believed that people were actually going to do this. These schools are now fighting illiteracy and increasing the love of reading among elementary school students and educators alike. Thanks to the initiative led by the Matthew E. Russell Foundation and Advance Education Inc, well over 6000 students and 100 teachers will now have access to digital textbooks, storybooks and reference materials through a library and media center. World Reader has added approximately 50 Kindles in selected schools library throughout this region.

The project has brought a strong impact for selected schools and their communities. “If we are going to have an impact that truly is transformative, technology and the use of e-readers is the pathway. Placing e-readers in the hands of children is handing them an open door to the rest of the world. We want the children to be the change agents in their communities. Change begins with knowledge and the gateway to that knowledge is literacy,” said Willie Russell.

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Education Hands-UP

Training educators on how to utilize their library will ensure its proper usage and alleviate the stress of how to use the library as a supplemental tool for learning. Supporting educational reform in small impactful ways, we are bridging the gap of disparities amongst South Africa’s poor schools. Past years we noticed gifting a library was not enough in schools that never had access to one. Although educators and learners now have access to information, the challenge is to effectively use it as a resource for teaching children. It’s our goal to develop a project to train educators on using the library as a resource to expand their educational capability.

Our first step was to return to schools that previously received a library and provide a training kit with illustrative teaching and learning materials. The training will show the librarian and educators how to effectively engage learners within the library. The kits are used by teachers and the librarian as an additional resource for teaching.

We have provided training kits to a total of 5 schools in the Eastern Cape of South Africa: Stanford Senior Primary School, Zamokhule Primary School, Ithongasi Primary School, Ngcingo Primary School, and Mdatya Primary School.

Throughout the year. In May of 2017 we will focus on providing additional library training for previous library recipients. In the fall we’ll return for follow up providing continuing training to monitor growth and sustainability. Participants will include the school librarian and 10 educators who in return will be responsible for training 10 additional educators, a community volunteer and 10 learners before we return in fall.)

As this is a new initiative, we are still loooking for impactful ways to expand. Currently we have completed the design and development of the training manual. We also have professional educators who will initiate hands on training for the librarian and 10 educators at designated schools. Reports and surveys are completed quarterly by the schools for follow up, accountability and sustainability.

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