Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Community Library

My big exciting news for the month is that my village is on-board to create a community library! We've been talking about the project for months and it's finally gaining momentum. Last week my counterpart from village and I visited with the Burkina branch of an organization called Friends of African Village Libraries (FAVL - it makes me think of Fieval Goes West). The organization helps small villages create and manage libraries, including one that recently opened in the village of one of my nearest Peace Corps Volunteer neighbors, Emilie Crofton. (http://pobemengaolibrary.blogspot.com/)

Here's a video of her library opening this past month:

Community libraries are crucial to promoting literacy in a country with the lowest level of literacy in the world (only 35% of men and 15% of women can read and write). Much of the problem is due to a lack of access to reading materials. In Béléhédé, one of the only sources of literature is text books at the elementary school, of which there aren't even enough for all of the students. A community library would not only provide reading material for the students, but for the literacy centers in Béléhédé, where older kids who aren't able to travel to secondary school and adults in the community come to learn the local languages, Koronfé and Fulfuldé, as well as French. The literacy centers are popular, particularly with women from the village, but the centers face the same problem as the school: lack of books.

It took Emilie about a year to get her library up and running, so I'm anticipating a similar time table for the library in Béléhédé. My counterpart, Alou, and I have already begun looking at buildings that can be refurbished for the project and started preparations for a library committee. While the village provides the building and someone to be trained as a librarian (Alou) and FAVL helps refurbish the building, trains the librarian, and provides on-going management and oversight of the library, fund-raising mostly falls to me. I'll be working on starting some small income-generating activities with the library committee so that the community is a part of the fund-raising process, but I'll also be doing a whole lot of grant writing and brainstorming to raise the rest of the needed funds. The goal is $10,000, of which we've raised $1,000 so far (thanks Mom!).

A lot of people have asked if they can send me anything or help out with my Peace Corps Service in any way, so if you'd like to donate, that would be a wonderful way to support the work I'm doing here. I definitely encourage you to check out FAVL's wonderful website - www.favl.org - for more information about the organization and the work that they do. And here's a breakdown of how a contribution would help:

10$ - Covers the purchase of 2 new African novels or other reading materials

$50 – Pays for the six month subscription of a nationally-read newspaper for the library

$100- Covers the librarian's salary for a month

$500 – Pays for the purchase of bookshelves, tables and chairs

$1,200 – Covers the cost and installation of solar panels for a library

Donate by mail with a check to:

Friends of African Village Libraries
P.O Box 90533
San Jose, California 95109-3533

Be sure to earmark the check to Béléhédé

For more info, definitely check out FAVL's and Emilie's websites: