Monday, March 26, 2007

What does a FAVL “inspection” trip end up doing?

A long entry for today. I typed up some notes and reflections from my visit to Bolgatanga area in Ghana last week. Our idea at FAVL is to combine financial support for community libraries with a lot of attention to management. In Ghana, we are fortunate to partner with CESRUD, a local NGO established by some dedicated public servants from Sumbrungu village. They really do a great job of helping the librarians in Sumbrungu and Sherigu. But there is always room for improvement… so here without much editing are my notes from my trip that I sent back to the librarians and CESRUD board members.

A few reflections after my visit of last week.

Before anything, a special thank you to Darius and his sister for helping us to find some “torozom” (the white powder from the pods of the baobab tree). In Sudan I used to drink juice made from this powder all the time (in arabic it is called “gongolaise”) and I was so happy to find some and taste it once again. Delicious!

1) FAVL was very pleased to be able to make a donation of 42 million cedis to the CESRUD account for continuation of work on the Women’s Center in Sumbrungu, with the eventual completion of the (south?) wing that would be suitable for the Sumbrungu community library (which would concentrate on books for children, such as story books and school books, and perhaps should start thinking about how to better serve women, including perhaps eventually hiring and training a woman librarian). We anticipate that we will make another contribution of about 25 million cedis in April. For purposes of our donor “satisfaction” it would be wonderful if when I come in April I could get some pictures showing the progress in the building over the previous month. Who knows, we may then be able to quickly fundraise for another 25 million cedis enabling completion of the work before June!

2) FAVL is in discussion with three university-level volunteers for the Sumbrungu and Sherigu libraries. I think for their trip we should, as we discussed, have a fixed “administrative fee” that CESRUD would receive for their time in Bolgatanga. This would include perhaps: (1) meeting and greeting by CESRUD board member upon their arrival in Bolgatanga, (2) welcome dinner with 2-3 CESRUD board members and librarians, (3) tour of Bolgatanga town, health clinic, and market with a librarian, (4) help in purchasing bicycle in market (that will eventually be left in women’s center for use by future volunteers and library personnel), (5) tours – on bicycle—of Sumbrungu and Sherigu, (6) tour of primary and JSS school, (7) three week “debriefing” lunch with a CESRUD board member and librarians- how is work going? Questions? (8) Assistance as needed for emergency health issues, or other emergency issues (theft, assault).

On the functioning of the libraries… I had a few reflections on the physical state of the libraries. I understand how in Sumbrungu the library will move hopefully in the summer to the Women’s Center. And in Sherigu perhaps the longer term is also to move over the Catholic Center and refurbish the roof there as soon as the Sumbrungu Women’s Center is completed. So there is no need to do much for the building. However, I do think that the furniture (tables and benches) could use some precautionary maintenance (varnish/paint/resurface) to protect it for the longer term. Can a carpenter be hired to do that protection? Also, I noticed on the walls in Sumbrungu that there are pictures by children and Mia and Jenevieve. These pictures are nice, but I think the idea is that they should be “renewed” every few months. Perhaps some petty cash funds can be used to buy drawing paper and colored crayons or paints, and some of the older children can make some decorations. Just four or five children would do a nice job I think… especially if they were encouraged to draw something about reading and the library or school. Also, I think both libraries need to have a better system of registering books so that it will be easier to conduct periodic inventories of the books. Perhaps each book when it is registered into the book registry accession book could be given a number (starting from 1, going to about 1000 now for each library). That way, when it is time to do an inventory, it will only take a few hours. We can talk about this in April. Finally, and this is for Sherigu especially, both libraries should have the library hours posted inside *and* outside the library. Both libraries should had a sign indicating the library (how is it possible that Sherigu still has no sign, even a wooden sign on the building?). Since Claudia is funding the storyteller, there should be regular hours for the storyteller posted on the library. In Burkina Faso, each library has a wooden bulletin board that is hung outside the library when the librarian opens the library, and this has announcements and hours and regulations. These are not very expensive to make and are very convenient.

Some more specific comments… Each library should have their “minutes” book up to date, not just with minutes of official meetings, but also short summaries of informal meetings or events in the library. That way when a visitor comes from FAVL or CESRUD they can take a quick look through the minutes book and see what issues have been under discussion. We discussed also the libraries perhaps training and having some student assistants, in JSS or SS who are very good readers and who would come to the library to help younger students with their lessons or with reading storybooks. We discussed also with Lucas about the possibility of making a large banner that would be used for celebrations etc., saying something like “Sumbrungu Community Library, supported by CESRUDand FAVL” with a picture of a child reading, and possibly a slogan about the importance of reading. Likewise, we discussed the idea of ordering Lacoste shirts with the slogan and picture also. I will leave it to you to think about that and perhaps find out the costs and perhaps we can discuss further via email or when I come in April.

On the accounts… In general Lucas is keeping excellent accounts, and keeping me regularly posted of the CESRUD bank accounts, the CESRUD petty cash accounts, and the Sumbrungu petty cash account. It is excellent work. For Bernard and Sherigu, I find that I do not have a statement of accounts for the last four months of 2006 (Sept-Oct-Nov-Dec). Bernard, could these please be prepared, or copied if you already sent them, and given to me at the end of April when I return? Thank you.

A few specific things on the accounts...
First, every month the coordinator honorarium of 250,000 cedis is being deducted. Since CESRUD board members are perhaps sometimes busy, I wanted to make sure that someone in CESRUD is receiving this regularly. If not, please speak with Lucas!
Second, in the accounts Rex is listed as having received a transfer of 3,030,000 cedis for expenses with Kathy Knowles visit. But in my accounts I have the transfer as 3,644,800. I do not have the receipts here with me, but I wonder if Rex perhaps you have the receipt and we can confirm whether I or you or Lucas has made a mistake in accounting. Not a large amount, but I like the account books to be 100% correct.
Third, on 19/9/06 in the CESRUD petty cash accounts there is listed a transfer of 200,000 to a petty cash account of a library, but it does not say which one- Sherigu or Sumbrungu. Since I do not have the Sherigu accounts for that period it is a question to be resolved. Also, in the CESRUD petty accounts there is listed a transfer to Sherigu petty cash of 200,000 in October 2006 but in the Sherigu account book that I saw in the Sherigu library this transfer was listed as 300,000.
Fourth, on the Sumbrungu petty cash accounts are listed two expenses of 100,000 for “machine” and I do not know what those expenses are for and was curious.

All of these questions are fairly minor, and we can clear them up when I return in April. Again, in general CESRUD is doing an excellent job in accounting for the funds allocated from FAVL. Thank you so much

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