Houle nurtures international connections

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Barb Houle loves teaching psychology at Riverland Community College.  She also loves making a difference in the lives of people in Eswatini, Africa, formerly known as Swaziland.

After graduation from Crosby-Ironton High School, Barb began work on a natural science degree from the College of St. Benedict. While on a study abroad course during her junior year, she realized she wanted to make travel and living abroad part of her future. When she returned home, she began to investigate serving in the Peace Corps.

Swaziland has continued to call to her, and she has made numerous trips back, including spending two sabbatical years there. On the 2009-10 sabbatical, Barb and her friend Lindiwe Sibisi visited a patient in a hospital.

Barb noticed that “the patients had nothing to do while they were recovering, no books, magazines, TV, nothing.”

In discussing her observation with her friend, the project, “Read to Recovery” was born.  They formulated a plan to raise funds to send books from the USA to be distributed to hospitals and health care centers. The project has continued since that start in 2010, with the generous help of many donors, and has shipped countless books to Swaziland.

In 2017, on her second sabbatical trip, Barb was able to observe the success of the project in getting the patients’ minds off their health issues and lowering their stress.

Later in 2017, a connection was made with Books for Africa, a nonprofit that is the largest shipper of books to Africa. This partnership between Read to Recovery and this larger organization has greatly enhanced fundraising and provided an avenue for shipping more books.