My recent August visit was just shy of two weeks, my shortest visit ever, but each day was full — coordinating details for a new library in Accra, attending meetings – both official and with staff and their library members, helping to organize the 20th anniversary of our first library, arranging furniture for a new school library, reading stories, taking pictures, observing exciting programs, and dealing with on-going maintenance details. My stay included visits to the City of Accra municipal office where their officers have been increasingly supportive of our libraries. All OCLF staff members are paid through government funds, and this is a huge vote of confidence for the project.
The new library cum community learning centre will be a three-storey building complete with a stage and an auditorium for dancing, theatre, cultural activities, and workshops. Roger Amenyogbe, a talented Ghanaian-born Canadian architect, has designed a striking building with strong lines that are complemented by a circular wall and curved awnings. The building will even have a balcony with an immediate view of the sea.
- One of my purposes of visiting Ghana in August was to attend the 3rd annual Osu Library Fund Theatre Festival. It ran on time – not ‘Ghanaian time’ – and our six libraries showcased the talents of their members who performed dances of all styles and short dramas. There was even one drama where a painter was painting human statues – originally thieves who had stolen goats! By the end of the Festival the children were shouting for encores and jumping up and down. It was an honour to be in the audience and to witness how Martin Adjei Legend, the Nima Centre’s highly skilled theatre director, orchestrated the day.
I enjoyed watching the activities of the month-long reading clinic organized by librarian Joanna Felih and her staff for the children’s school vacation break. It was remarkable to see how 35 children were neatly allocated to five groups depending on their age within the small space of a shipping container and its yard. One group was practicing dictation, another was playing Scrabble (yes, with six or more players!), another was working on improving their math skills, another was learning two and three-letter words and the little ones played with blocks, puzzles and crayons. A nourishing snack at the end of each morning was a highlight for all the participants. At its conclusion the children who regularly attended chose one of OCLF’s own books to take home.
A special moment was visiting the home of Zainabu, a delightful seven-year-old girl who is the subject for my newest book, The Faces of Zainabu. I met her father for the first time and he warmly welcomed me as he already knew about the book following my April visit. Five of us sat on the floor of their home and reflected on Zainabu’s expressions in each of 24 photos. We hope to have the book published in time for my next visit in late October.
Although technology has vastly improved communication, it is still with face-to-face meetings that we are able to build confidence and to move ahead. That is especially true in Ghana, and I am certainly pleased that I was able to make this visit.