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

Director’s Newsletter

May 24, 2015

Dear Friends,

Kathy Knowles_for newsletterI returned from Ghana just a few days ago and am adjusting to the routines of Winnipeg life after leaving the frenetic pace of Accra behind. It always takes a while; silence, apart from chirping spring birds, is a stark contrast to the cacophony that permeates my life in Ghana.

Since my visit last November, the fear of Ebola has subsided significantly. Nurses still scan arriving passengers for elevated temperatures, but bank tellers no longer wear gloves. Tourism is starting to recover too. A major concern now is a severe power crisis that is affecting the whole country. It is difficult when the power goes off every single day.

Volunteer Sarah Marquis at our Goi library.

Volunteer Sarah Marquis at our Goi library.

My stay included many visits to each of our eight libraries in the Greater Accra Region. In Goi, a fishing village one hour from the capital, I watched their librarian Vivian Amanor welcome Sarah Marquis, a young volunteer from Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Sarah delighted children with her imaginative games and creative activities. She also spent time at two of our Accra libraries.

During each visit, I spoke with librarians and heard about their new activities. Leticia Quayson at the Nima library recently started a wildlife club where children come every week to learn about animals. I read through their exercise books that were crammed with animal facts.

Korle Gonno Community Library, Accra

Korle Gonno Community Library, Accra

Naomi Awusi, the charge librarian at the Nima Centre, told me that they ran a campaign to alert their community about the dangers of hypertension, an all-too-common health issue among Ghanaians. They used the library’s blood pressure machine and went from household to household to take BP measurements.

I spent much of my time at our newest library in Korle Gonno where you can see fishing boats dotted along the coast. The library adds a beacon of colour to this community; even the stairwell openings are lined with brightly coloured tiles, giving an almost stained glass-like effect as one climbs the steps.

Painters proudly displaying their own crocodile!

Painters proudly displaying their own crocodile!

On the lower level, primary school children squeezed into various corners to read their favourite books. Enthusiastic librarians read stories, introduced educational games, and offered a variety of arts and craft opportunities. One Saturday we had a party themed after OCLF’s book Crocodile Bread. A local baker prepared a two-foot-long crocodile!

Rita Adjetey, one of the library’s three cleaners, brings Maud, her four-year-old daughter, to work. It gave me great pleasure to see Maud read from morning to closing each day. It won’t be long before Rita joins the library’s literacy classes, an important step as she never went to school.

Kathy Knowles Theatre Company Works after an exhibition performance.

Kathy Knowles Theatre Company     after an exhibition performance.

Abdul Aziz Abillah, our theatre director, continues to inspire Korle Gonno’s youth in the upper hall. I watched 35 young people dance for five hours every day during their school holidays. According to 16-year-old Ebenezer, “…we all want him to be our teacher forever.”

We are always mindful of the environment and the importance of good sanitation, especially where water is scarce. Thanks to a Community Initiatives Program grant from Alberta, we are building four composting toilets on the compound to serve library members and students from a nearby junior high school.

Kathy Knowles with Accra's Mayor

Kathy Knowles with Accra’s Mayor

I was pleased to learn that Accra’s mayor, the Hon. Dr. Alfred Okoe Vandepuije, received the José  Eduardo Dos Santos Best Mayor of Africa Award. The mayor is a loyal supporter of our libraries, and I was honoured to be invited to a luncheon that recognized this award.

The day before my departure, Victor Mensah, the Metropolitan Works’ Director, showed me a plot of land in Kaneshie, Accra, with the anticipation of another new library. This exciting project would also be a joint partnership between the Osu Children’s Library Fund and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly.

This year, we are celebrating our 25th anniversary since the day I read to six children under a tree. This is in sharp contrast to 2014 when we recorded 285,000 visits at our Accra libraries. This growth would not have been possible without the support of our generous donors, the contributions made by dozens of hardworking librarians, and our Canadian volunteers who help behind the scenes.

Next month, our website’s homepage will highlight our 25 years!

Yours sincerely,

Kathy Knowles

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