Wednesday, March 11, 2009

News from Kate in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi

Kate Parry is at present on a visit to Rwanda and Burundi, and she writes from Kigali airport:

I have this morning been visiting the library of the UN International Criminal Tribunal in Kigali. It focuses on the subjects of law, human rights, and war crimes, including genocide, and offers print materials on these subjects, unpublished theses and dissertations, and access to the internet. It also shows films and videos of the proceedings that continue in Arusha against the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide. Besides serving law students, lawyers, and researchers, it provides materials to the general public, members of which often want to know what happened to their own families. It also runs ten provincial centres where, again, people can get information about the Tribunal’s proceedings. Here, then, is a different perspective on libraries: they are providing information to promote reconciliation – and by providing information, in writing, about matters that are of the deepest concern to people, they must also be promoting literacy, in a particularly effective way.

Yesterday I visited the library that was set up a year or so ago by Betsy Dickey, of Ready to Read and a leading member of FAVL’s East Africa committee. The library is flourishing: it was full of children when we arrived, all busily reading (many in English!), and one little girl read some of her book aloud to me. The librarian, Emmanuel, runs a regular story time and a creative writing workshop, and they have a computer centre. Best of all, the government was so impressed by the library that it’s put a whole lot of money into rebuilding the school. But the library is not just a school library, Emmanuel says: other members of the community are beginning to use it, and so, despite being in the city, it is furthering FAVL’s philosophy of serving African communities by providing information.

Betsy is now working on setting up another library at Rwinkwavu, where the medical organization, Partners in Health, already has a hospital. She is well supported by PIH (though of course she has to raise the funds) as well as by the relevant government ministries.

These libraries are not FAVL libraries, but they are already loosely affiliated to FAVL through Betsy. We hope, too, that they can become part of a Rwanda (Community?) Libraries Association which can work collaboratively with UgCLA.

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