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

Director’s Newsletter

September 26, 2013

Dear Friends,

Earlier this week I returned from a 15-day trip that covered visits to Ghana, South Africa and Tanzania.  Plans for this began when I was invited to an IBBY [International Board for Books for Young People] Africa symposium that took place on September 16th and 17th in Pretoria, South Africa. It was an honour to share OCLF’s reading promotion efforts and to participate alongside others working on the African continent who all have a similar mission – bringing books and children together.

Patricia Matira with me at the IBBY symposium

OCLF also sponsored Patricia Matira, a librarian from the Marondera Children’s Library in Zimbabwe, to attend. She has made a significant contribution in her own community and symposium guests were amazed at her passion for her work. Patricia never mentioned the trying circumstances in her country or the fact that she hasn’t received her salary since April. Her dedication is quite remarkable.

Niki Daly, a highly acclaimed South African writer and illustrator of children’s books, invited me to join him following the symposium as he spoke to students at various schools in the area and read from his latest book, The Herd Boy. The book’s message is that it is good to dream, regardless of where you are, just as Nelson Mandela likely did when he was a herd boy many years ago. On four occasions I was asked to share my dream too — following our humble beginnings of reading to children under a tree. After one talk a young student came up to me and said, “I like your dream.” Her friend echoed, “I do too.”

Prior to attending the IBBY event I passed through Ghana to see our Accra libraries and to check out our newest library project in Korle Gonno. That library now has 15 men working on a daily basis under the watchful eye of our remarkable contractor Kojo Maclean. While there I met with Gordon, an iron welder, who will be constructing about 100′ of railings and others who will be working towards the building’s completion. It is a challenge to coordinate the multitude of necessary arrangements and to have their tasks completed in a timely fashion.

A lion made from bottle caps!

I also had the chance in Ghana to view some colourful pieces of artwork that came out of workshops that we had arranged. This included a mosaic mural on a library’s garden wall. We are most grateful for Sunanda Mesquita, the artist who fostered such creativity at the library, and her husband, Amoako.

My time in Tanzania included only three nights although it seemed I was there for weeks as each day brought many new experiences. En route in Nairobi, I met up with Vivian Amanor, an OCLF librarian from Goi.  Little did we know that this city would be the focus of world attention following the tragic massacre at the Westgate Shopping Mall the next day. We continued on together to the Kilimanjaro Airport.

Vivian with students from the Arkatan School standing in front of their new library.

Vivian was welcomed as a mentor to train Veronica, a recently-hired librarian for Arkatan, a Maasia village one hour from Arusha. The children received us with well rehearsed little speeches in English, and I was given a traditional red-checked Maasai cloth that served me well on cool mornings. Joash Vomo and Wesley Kaleshu, officers with the Robin Hurt Wildlife Foundation, OCLF’s partners with the library project, were outstanding hosts as were the Maasai people of Arkatan.

Last Sunday Veronica, Vivian and I walked for hours across the nearby savanna where we were welcomed repeatedly into Maasai homes – complete with singing and dancing.  Memorable, for sure.The Arkatan Community Library is almost complete, and I know that Vivian’s presence will make a world of difference to establishing a successful library. I only wish that I could be there on opening day to celebrate its opening.

At the moment I am busy preparing for the October 3rd book launch of The Library Tree, a story written by Deborah Cowley about OCLF, and a subsequent cross-Canada tour. Following this I will be returning once again to Ghana!

Yours sincerely,

Kathy Knowles

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