Friday, August 08, 2008

More from FAVL - East Africa

Kate writes, apparently from the bus terminal in Dodoma on her way to visit Chalula library in Tanzania:

Dear Friends,

It’s been a busy summer (dry season in Uganda), and I have only been able to get to Kitengesa three times. But they were three wonderful weekends. On the first, the library was holding a Children’s Day. Cheldren from Lwannunda Primary School—the school next door to our own house—were there, playing games and reading books, and at the end Lucy, the librarian in charge, asked me to read them a story. It’s a lovely story, How Hare Stole Ghost’s Drum by Julius Ocwinyo. Julius is a friend of mine, and he told me that he learned the story while in primary school in Northern Uganda, in his own language, Lango. And here was I reading this story, in English, to Luganda-speakig children! It’s a great instance of the kind of interlingual activity the library makes possible.

My most recent visit, on 19-20 July, was extra special because we were playing host that weekend to a mobile computer center! This center is a project of the Maendeleo foundation ( or, which is directed by my friend Eric Morrow. It consists of a van, equipped with solar panels on the roof, a tent, and five cmputers. Eric set up the show outside the library and on the first day the Lwannunda Primary School children came to learn how to use the computers; the second day was devoted to adult members of the library. On the Saturday, Dan set a DVD going on one of our laptops inside the library to keep the children entertained while they were waiting; and later I got to read them another story. Altogether, Eric and his team served close to 100 people that weekend—and since it was the first time he had taken his mobile computer center out, it was quite a triumph.

The middle visit was devoted to a meeting of the Kitengesa Community Library Board (of which I am the secretary). Our main task at present is putting up our own computer center. A student volunteer organization based on the University of British Columbia raised CAN$10,000 towards this project, and we raised another $10,000 ourselves last year. Now the walls are up and work is to begin on the roof next week. The whole building is to consist of a book room, the same size as our present library, a slightly smaller computer room (to house 9-10 computers), and a community hall. The idea is to rent the latter out so as to generate an income for the library.

We need more money, though. We had to start the project early this year so as to secure the Canadian grant, and I thought what I’d raised would be enough to finish the building. But prices, especially of cement, have gone up tremendously, and what we have will only complete the roof. I’m trying to get another grant, and the Maendeleo Foundation will help with the computers, but any additional contribution will be warmly welcome, if only to cover our running costs (the latter are about $3000 a year, while as much as $10,000 more may be needed for the building project).

Meanwhile, I’ve been spending a lot of time working for the Uganda Community Libraries Association. We formed this association last year because we realized that thee are many other libraries in Uganda founded, like Kitengesa, on local initiatives and serving mainly rural populations. We have held two workshops for the association, and it is wonderful to see how excited the people working in these libraries are about meeting others in the same business—and, as we hoped it would, Kitengesa is proving an example and inspiration for all. So thanks to all of you, our donors, for making this all possible!

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