This year we have build three libraies and equipped them with thousands on books. Our volunteer Alena spent her last three months in Kenya, building two libraries. This is her article about Likoni library and the opening day.
It was a lovely Saturday afternoon and tens of children were waiting in front of a newly painted room in the middle of a school compound. Our library in Kenya is a ferry ride from the heart of a big coastal island town called Mombasa. After you take the ferry, the scenery will change. From a nice, old, traditional town with its historical roots in Arabic and Portuguese culture will change into poor and dirty slum area. That is Likoni. The poor and less fortunate who cannot afford to live on the island have built various structures to accommodate them and their budget. After years and years has this slum transformed into almost a town. It now also has its own poor, middle class and rich - most of them are however still unable to live on the island itself. Likoni has its own schools from which only very few are government ones and hospitals which are also almost all private. However, the standard of both cannot be compared to the standard of the hospital care and education that one would get in Mombasa. That is why we choose to build our library here. Despite all the facilities this area has there is still room for improvement.
First time I crossed the ferry in the summer of 2012. At that time, I was first and only volunteer from Kipepeo Foundation (www.kipepeofoundation.org), a small charity that focuses on this area and supports the locals through various activities such as building schools, supporting young boys to play football or paying for lunches at schools. With this charity I got to know one area of Likoni called Majengo Mapya and I helped to organized and built the water tank and water supply for the entire school. I gained not only experience but many friends and when we were looking for a place to build a library three years later Likoni was a perfect place.
Timbwani Baptist Primary, school close to local Shelly beach and at the edge of the slum kindly donated a room in the middle of their complex for our library. Teachers and students all participated and helped in the process of renovation and when we were sorting the books and thus when the library was ready to be opened five weeks later, it was well known and advertised by the local children themselves. I came to the library on the opening day and everybody was very excited. There was no big ceremony or speeches as the children already saw and briefly read some books when we were still in the process of reconstruction, but it was nice and relaxing atmosphere and I felt very happy handing over the key and management of the library to our local representative Hagai, who together with other volunteers will manage and run the library. Many high school students were very happy for the electricity as this means they can come in the evening and study with a proper light rather than use carousel lamp that is expensive and dangerous for one's health.
During the renovations we set up a Pen Pal scheme between our library school. Timbwani Baptist and one school in the Czech Republic. Since then the children have exchanged already two letters and we are happy that more and more classes want to participate in such schemes. Letter writing not only helps them to practice their English skills but also widens the knowledge about the world and other cultures. It gives our children feeling that somebody cares personally about them and that they have a close friend far away. Many of those children are orphans, some HIV positive and all of them are from very poor background so having someone so far away who cares about them and writes them letters is indeed amazing.
Hagai promised he will keep us updated and when we receive news from this library we will be more than happy to share it with you. Keep an eye on our FB page or this News section and if you want to be sure you do not miss anything please subscribe to our newsletter, we only send four newsletters each year so we want fill up your mailbox!
Greetings from warm Kenya, Alena