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

Reflections: Linda Hyde returns to Goi

Linda is with a young library member.

Traveling to Goi, a small fishing village in Ghana, for the second time in two years was a great experience. I did not need to spend a single moment of my six week visit adjusting to the country or it’s culture. I had remained in frequent contact with Vivian, librarian of the Goi Community Library; Michael, Headmaster of Goi Basic School; Napoleon, teacher; and Diana, Headmaster’s 17-year old niece. So from the first minute I stepped from the car to the sand that Goi is built on, I was home. Everyone welcomed me with shouts of joy, warm hugs and even a few tears. Within a few minutes we were sitting in the shade of the palm trees, enjoying fresh coconuts and making plans.

Over the next few days village officials came by with formal greetings and to let me know that they remembered me. The village itself was so familiar – the constant sound of the sea; the crowing of the roosters at first light; the women and children making their way through the fields of tall grass carrying large basins of water on their heads; the tiny goats wandering through the school compound. And of course the routine of the library – opening at 9:00 a.m. six mornings a week; opening the wooden shutters at the windows; removing the cloths off the bookcases and boxes of books; setting out the small wooden stools around the tables; discussing with Vivian the library activities for the day.

Vivian has been the librarian of Goi Community Library since it’s very humble beginnings in 2001. During my first visit I helped her move the library from the abandoned fish-drying building on the beach into an empty classroom in Goi Basic School. Now the plan is to have a library built that will not only meet the needs of Goi but also those of neighbouring villages along the coast. A small guesthouse will be built on the new library compound where future volunteers will stay. It will no longer be necessary for Headmaster to temporarily move out of his living quarters to accommodate the library volunteer.

My friends and family generously donated money for the library and I very quickly put it to use. Within two weeks the local carpenters delivered four new pieces of furniture. Vivian was thrilled to receive a much needed table to hold two wash basins and hand towels. Before entering the library everyone washes their hands to prevent soiling the books. Previously the basins were placed on the ground or on an old school desk but the water was often spilled and wasted. In Goi every drop of water costs in terms of labour and money so the new table is a wonderful addition. The second item is a shelf that holds their footwear that people remove at the door to avoid tracking in dirt and sand. Both of these pieces were painted a lovely shade of green and proudly sit at the entrance to the library. And two new bookcases now hold books that had been in boxes spread over one of the tables.

I had great fun with the younger library visitors – they love songs such as ‘Head and shoulders, knees and toes’ especially when the actions get faster and faster! And there were lots of giggles when their fingers became confused trying to make the spider movement with ‘Itsy bitsy spider’. They never got tired of singing ‘The wheels on the bus go round and round’, ‘Row, row, row your boat’, ‘I have something in my pocket’ and ‘Skinnamarink-a dink-a dink’. They sing many of their own Ghanaian favourites as well but it seems to be the actions with these North American songs that really capture them.

It was the word games and puzzles that I put on the blackboard every morning that interested the older students. I scrambled words, phrases and even questions and answers to a favourite book. They couldn’t get enough of these. As soon as they saw new puzzles were written on the board, they took pencil and paper and began to work them out. One by one they came up beside me and shyly said ‘Madam, I am done’. As I checked each word as correctly unscrambled and drew a star at the top of the page, a huge grin spread across their face. They were so proud of themselves. And I was very impressed by how quick and how clever many of these students are.

Teachers and village officials are frequent visitors to the library. They enjoy reading the books and magazine as well as working on the word puzzles. But it is Thursday – game day – that attracts everyone. Scrabble and Boggle are hugely popular. Vivian arranged a Scrabble Tournament with teams from three local schools. That day the electricity was off, the ceiling fans were not working and it was very, very hot in the library. But this did not deter the students or their teachers. Even with observers four-deep at the windows blocking the light and air, the teams played hard, concentrating on every move. It was a great afternoon and everyone is eagerly waiting for the second tournament.

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to visit Goi a second time. I feel that I was more of an active participant on this trip and less of an observer. I only hope that I was able to give as much to my Ghanaian friends as I took away with me.

Linda Hyde