Hailey Knowles – 2019

I spent three weeks this August volunteering in OCLF libraries in Ghana. I spent the first week in the Kathy Knowles Community Library [KKCL] in Osu, Accra. I stayed with the head Librarian Joana Felih above the Korle Gonno Community Library and commuted there every day.

Before I arrived, I bought some games (Guess Who? and Dominoes) as well as a puzzle and two copies of a simple chapter book that I love. I gave these to the children when I arrived and they loved them, especially the Guess Who? In the KKCL, we did adult literacy classes in the mornings which I loved because the women I worked with were super eager and therefore fast to learn and really appreciated my help. We did lots of sound work and I also loved how much material progress they seemed to make with the learning while I was there.

Then, in the afternoon I did lots of work with the children such as math lessons or games which helped me get to know them really well. While I was there, they were on vacation, so they played more games than usual, and the numbers were lower as many children were away. As shown to the top left, Jennifer, Joana’s daughter, and I also made pencil cases out of two water bottles with the children. This was really fun, especially as the materials we used were so simple and the children were very excited about having a pencil case that they wouldn’t normally have.

I then spent the next two weeks in a very small fishing village up the coast called Goi, working in the KKCL there. I lived in the guest house of the library and worked there from 9-5 every day. The first few hours of the morning I read with individual children helping them not to skip over words they didn’t know and also pushing them to read new books. This is how I got to know the children best as they were shy at first to read to me but became more confident and much stronger readers. For the rest of the day I would often help to create and lead dictations for the children at varying levels of difficulty and mark them after. I also introduced the idea of making the children re-write all of their spelling errors that they made in their work so they wouldn’t repeat them. We played lots of games together as well as creating word-searches based on the most popular books at the library which they really enjoyed. I also taught them how to make mini books and told the younger children to make, for example, ‘My A Book’ and write words beginning with A on every page and draw pictures. For the older children I told them to write about who they are and their families, which again helped me to learn more about them.

I spent my time with Paulina, a wonderful young librarian there, and we ran every morning, visited the beach when people were buying fish, went to church and got to know many people in Goi.

Overall, I had an incomparable experience where I gained so much perspective because of each child was so eager to learn, bringing themselves to the library each day, and I also loved getting to know so many people in Ghana who will be lifelong friends of mine. I certainly plan to go back as I would love to see the development of the children I met and the librarians, as well as longing to help more.