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

Reflections: Emilie Wall

Emilie is with Vivian, Goi’s enthusiastic librarian.

January 30th marked the beginning of my one-month adventure as a volunteer for OCLF in Ghana, Africa. It was a day of conflicting emotions; excitement and anticipation of what lay ahead, eagerness to meet the people I had heard so much about from previous volunteers and nervousness about travelling alone and leaving my family and friends.

I spent the first three days at the guesthouse with Joanna Felih and her daughter, Jennifer. Joanna was so friendly and helpful and within a very short time I felt right at home. She made arrangements for me to visit several of Kathy’s libraries in Accra. The city was very busy and colourful as it was hosting The African Cup of Nations Tournament.

The remainder of my volunteer time was in Goi, a small fishing village. There I had the privilege of working with their librarian, Vivian Amanor, whose love of reading is a wonderful role model for the children of Goi.

Every day was a new learning experience giving me many treasured memories of my time in Goi. I will always remember:

  • the warmth and welcome I received upon my arrival.
  • their pride and joy as they showed me the new library Kathy is building in Goi.
  • the way Miss Anna and her young daughter made me part of their family.
  • waking to the sounds of roosters crowing and the children sweeping the school grounds with cornhusk brooms.
  • how precious water is in Africa and how quickly one can adapt to bathing with very little.
  • the children calling “Good morning” as I stood outside brushing my teeth.
  • the band playing each morning as students marched into their classrooms.
  • the sounds of the Nursery School children as they stood at the library window waiting for their turn and chanting, “We want to learn, we want to learn.”
  • the perspiration running down my face as I read to the children on lights out days and there were no fans.
  • the children’s love of music and their excitement when I taught them new rhymes, finger plays and songs with the help of my speakers and i-pod.
  • Valentine’s Day and how the children rushed to the library to make cards.
  • the enthusiasm of the older children as they performed several plays for the younger children and their teachers.
  • watching the children play ampe and trying to learn how to play oware.
  • the experience of going to the market with Miss Anna.
  • marvelling at how the women and children carry large buckets of water on their heads and babies on their backs.
  • hearing the cry of fear when a small child saw “the white lady”.
  • attending the funeral of a ten year old boy.
  • waking at 4:30 am. on Sunday morning to the sounds of “Praise the Lord, Hallelujah, Amen”, as the church services began in the classrooms of the school.
  • seeing men, women and children gathering salt.
  • watching the fishermen bring in their catch of the day.
  • my visits to meet and say good-bye to the chief.
  • going to the Volta region to see where the Volta River runs into the Atlantic Ocean.
  • how Miss Anna made me a lovely blouse and skirt with no pattern and a hand crank sewing machine.
  • how appreciative the students and Miss Vivian were when I helped them crochet cell phone bags and skull caps.
  • the lovely thank you notes that I received from the library students.
  • the community life, the way they help and take care of each other and often ask, “Are you okay?”
  • the experience of working in the library and watching the children enjoy the books and develop a love of reading.

But above all, I will always remember how the people of Goi taught me much about the richness of life lived simply and graciously.

Kathy and her librarians do an outstanding job of making your volunteer time an experience of a lifetime. It was 30 days and 30 nights of my life that I will never forget.

Emilie Wall