Kisumu – Karateng’
Our library opens daily at 8:30 a.m. and closes at 5:00 p.m. and is open to anyone in the community who would like to use it. In Kenya, the academic year begins in January, and breaks in April, August, and mid November through December for the long break. April, August, November, and December are exciting times for our readers. Although the library opens at 8:30 a.m., the early birds are frequently waiting as early as 8:00 a.m. By 11 a.m., we frequently have about 60 kids and 100 – 120 by the end of the day.
Our readers love to visit the library and spend hours in the rooms flipping through the 17,500 books. Many do not care to break for lunch at 1:00 p.m. but are forced to leave as the library closes for a 1-hour break.
Although the library is quiet during the morning hours when school is in session, our librarians spend the afternoon helping the 1st to 3rd graders with homework. Their day ends at 1:00 p.m., leaving their afternoons free to reinforce their learning and to learn new skills.
Our librarians are dedicated mothers, sisters, wives, and brothers who dedicate their lives to providing information to the community. All are either trained in library science or education and love their work. The five librarians and the library manager function both as teachers and librarians and frequently find innovative ways to deal with the many challenges of managing a rural library like finding a spot under the mango trees to accommodate the readers when the library is filled to capacity, or providing dim lamps to readers when the electricity goes out for days on end during rainy season. The library is the first in the community and the children think they are teachers. Educating the community on the function of a library in the community is a challenge, but one thing for sure, our librarians love the kids and their work.
In November 2015, we hand-picked 6 of our biggest supporters to join us in an entrepreneurial endeavor that will change their lives. The idea was to provide seed funding for a greenhouse project on the land where the library sits, and to invite these 6 wonderful women to be trained in greenhouse tomato farming. The greenhouse would produce a crop and the women would be trained to form a company that would manage, market, sell, and profit from the project. Proceeds from the profit would be used to pay back the seed money, fund the library, sustain the project, and of course provide an income. The women formed Mine Nyalo (Women Can) women’s group and are currently in the process of fertilizing the soil to establish their first greenhouse.
Information is the bedrock of our community’s advancement. While we are looking forward to a digital transformation, our library currently subscribes to the Daily Nation and the Standard Newspapers. The community relies on the paper for business, civic and educational information and opportunities.
In 2010, our community got access to electricity for the first time. Only a small percentage of families can afford to maintain the electric costs and therefore a large percentage are still in the dark. Despite the fact that our bills are paid each month, our electric service is inconsistent and goes out, sometimes for days at at time – especially during the rainy season. An afternoon shower is enough to leave us in the dark for 3 days. Our biggest desire is to harness the rays of the sun and convert it into clean and renewable energy.
We dream of access to the internet and reliable computers. Last November, a generous donor provided us with the entire Khan Academy catalogue – an opportunity of a lifetime. Unfortunately, we have not been able to provide access to our readers because we do not yet have a technology solution. Reliable computer and internet access would change the game for our entire community. It would provide needed access, general excitement, and a boost to our programs.
Our readers love to draw pictures and color during our Saturday morning art session. Every Saturday each reader comes in for a piece of paper, crayons, sidewalk chalk and gets to coloring. Amid the joy and laughter, the community is treated to children’s art. Art promotes innovation and diversity in talent. We look forward to formal art projects that will harness the hidden talents in our community.
We would like to provide formal music education to our readers. Music is a language that unites and we believe that introducing formal music lessons in our community can lead to discipline and the determination to succeed in both the music training as well as other areas at school.