Scarborough to Uganda: Woman partners with library for 'flat chicken' project

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SCARBOROUGH — Amy Faulkingham spent more than two years in Mali for the Peace Corps, but she still was not prepared for her recent trip to Uganda.

“I was so taken aback,” Faulkingham said. “It’s so lush there, so green. We had fresh pineapple every day. Fresh mango, guava – the fruit was amazing.”

Faulkingham, who is from South Portland, traveled to a small village called Kabaale in southern Uganda for several weeks to teach agriculture skills to some of the villagers, and to help out with a small medical clinic.

She taught classes on how to brush your teeth and what foods have the most nutritional value. She also built a movable chicken coop to help the children at the local school raise their own sources of protein.

That was where the Scarborough Public Library came in. The library partnered with some local Girl Scouts for a play on the popular “Flat Stanley” project, which has children take photos with a cartoon character.

The library created a “flat chicken” to correspond with Faulkingham’s chicken coop project, took photos with the Girl Scouts all over Scarborough, and gave her the photos and a book called “One Hen,” about a young African boy who raises hens to feed his village.

“We thought, ‘wouldn’t it be fun to connect with her and do some literacy work,’ since she’d be working with young kids,” Celeste Shinay, the library programming and development manager, said. “Our flat hen, their flat hen. It’s a cross-cultural experience.”

The library’s theme this summer is cross-cultural experiences.

Faulkingham took the photos and the book to Uganda with her and showed the kids.

“When I told them they’d all be getting a chicken, they all clapped, but when I told them they could keep the book, they jumped up and started cheering,” Faulkingham said. “They were much more excited about getting the book than the chickens.”

She and the children took the “flat chicken” all around the village, taking photos with it in all the places the children thought were important to the town.

And now, Faulkingham has plans to return to the village with books to start a library for the kids there, and to make sure each child in the school has a hen.

“I’m going back in November, assuming I can raise the funds, to bring them their chickens,” she said.

She’s also hoping to partner with the Scarborough School Department to ask parents to buy an extra book at the book fair and donate it to her Kabaale library project.

“I would love to be doing this full time,” Faulkingham said. “It’s so fulfilling. It almost feels selfish, it makes me so happy.”

Faulkingham will do a presentation on her trip as part of the library’s Armchair Traveler’s series on May 25 at 6:30 p.m. She will also do a presentation for children this summer at the library to show the photos of the “flat chicken” project and connect local kids with the Kabaale children.

“I really want to maintain the peace I felt while I was there,” Faulkingham said. “You get this perspective on what’s really important.”

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

Sidebar Elements

South Portland resident Amy Faulkingham hands out deworming pills to children in Kabaale, Uganda, during a recent trip. Faulkingham teamed up with the Scarborough Public Library for a literacy-agriculture project for the village.

Children from a small village in Uganda hold the “Flat Chicken,” part of a joint project organized by Amy Faulkingham between the village and the Scarborough Public Library.