Sharing the Joy of Reading with an African Child
for 25 years

December 8, 2013

Dear Friends

Contractor Kojo Maclean with me at Korle Gonno.

I am looking through a frosted window where the outdoor temperature in Winnipeg is -26ºc and there is no noise apart from the background hum of my computer. This is in sharp contrast to only four days ago when Accra’s temperature hovered around 30ºc and sounds from our modest guesthouse never ceased – goats bleating, school children in their classroom (only six feet away!) singing and marching to enthusiastic drummers, loudspeakers from several nearby mosques calling the faithful to prayer and a steady stream of highway traffic outside our front door. It always takes some time to adjust.

My month-long trip was exceptionally busy with what appeared to be a never-ending list of events and festivals. Every November we host a librarians’ workshop and this year the number of participants totaled 64, from security men and gardeners to head librarians and their colleagues. The day started with an inspiring address by Emma Amoo-Gottfried, director of the Osu Library Fund, our sister charity in Ghana. She spoke about children under five and their tremendous capability to learn and the important role librarians have to play.

The workshop gave everyone an opportunity to share ideas.

Librarians spoke about their programs and Vivian Amanor, OLF’s head librarian in Goi, shared her experience travelling to Tanzania in October to help with a new library in Arkatan, a Maasai community

At the workshop we showcased OCLF’s newest publication, My Animal Book, a board book
co-authored by Vivian and myself. Vivian’s detailed textile illustrations using materials are exquisite.

I accompanied the children, literacy students and staff from one library to the Ghana Planetarium. Learning astronomical concepts, especially for those who have never attended school, was an eye opener. At the end of the presentation one literacy student exclaimed loudly, “Isn’t God wonderful!” Her peers enthusiastically agreed.

The Sports Festival began with football!

It was fun to watch and participate in the sixth annual Library Sports Festival complete with football matches, sack races, musical chairs and more. Earlier that week I noticed a pair of running shoes put out to dry at the front of one of the libraries. I was told that Theresa, one of their cleaners, was preparing for her portion of the run in the staff relay. Last year she competed barefoot. Such events are part of the cycle of the library year and are cherished by all.

Martin Legend, the Nima Centre’s theatre director, and his company put on a stellar performance of The Chest of a Woman. The acting was outstanding, the stage set was impressive and those in the audience responded with enthusiasm. Several members of Martin’s theatre company have gone on to earn income from performing, a tribute to his success.

The Accra College of Education Community Library initiated and hosted its first annual reading competition for five neighbourhood schools. They presented a trophy to the winning school, and it will be brought back to the library next November, giving other schools the chance to claim it.

The biggest celebration of the month was the 10th anniversary of the Nungua Community Library. Staff members started arriving by 4:00 a.m. to prepare for the day  – erecting canopies, arranging 300 chairs, creating a stage area, decorating the place with ribbons and balloons, preparing food, cooling drinks, and finally, connecting the sound system. To date the library has recorded more than 40,000 visits in a facility that is always spotlessly clean with eager readers and a host of library programs to stimulate young minds. A 10-foot hand-carved sign with Albert Einstein’s quote, “Imagination is more important than knowledge” greets all who pass through its doors.

Almost daily, I visited the construction site of the Korle Gonno Community Library to meet with Kojo Maclean, the contractor, and a range of tradesmen who are all working diligently to create a beautiful and well-built library. There are so many details to consider for this library as its proximity to the sea creates havoc for all metal surfaces. Plastic, a material I generally avoid, is now viewed in a more positive light!

The rest of my time was spent visiting all our other libraries, reading and doing art with children, reviewing accounts with head librarians, and sorting through various issues that arise each day. My colleague and dear friend Deborah Cowley once again made this all possible as her sense of organization far exceeds mine.

As the year comes to a close I would like to thank you for your support, as our outreach is only made possible through your contributions. We are most grateful

Yours sincerely,

Kathy Knowles

Previous letters: