It’s the holiday season, let’s spread some good cheer!
To donate to UgCLA online: go to www.favl.org and click “donate,” at the bottom of the page specifying that you would like to donate to FAVL Uganda.
OR mail a cheque to Friends of African Village Libraries, PO Box 90533, San Jose, CA 95109-3533. On the memo line, you can specify that it is for Uganda Community Libraries Association.
Thank you in advance!
PS please don’t be offended if I forgot your celebration of choice in the title.
I’m on a mission back in Paris - Kate has entrusted me with a USB with pictures and info to update UgCLA’s website. As it so happens, the UgCLA webmaster lives in Paris, so this is a relatively easy task for me. I’m excited to see what the renovations are!
24 hour point until our departure. Before we start to pack, we would like to thank everyone who has made this trip possible. That is, mainly, our parents, Clare & Mike and Sarah & Jim. We had an amazing time here, thank you for your generosity. Also, a huge shout out to Professors Kate and Kasozi, who have hosted us over the past few weeks (has it only been a few weeks?) and have put up with our madness.
We love you guys.
-EM & LH
We visited the AFRIpads factory this morning, and it’s truly fantastic. It’s a two-minute walk down the road from the library, so it feels very interconnected, which is great. In fact, a lot of the girls working there used to use the library, which is how they found out about AFRIpads. Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t a working day, because they’re training some new girls, showing them how to sew all the different bits of the final product together. This product, which is 5 washable liners with two clip-on pads and a little bag for emergencies, is extremely neat, each individual one being perfectly tailored. Sonia Klumpp and Paul Grinvalds, the founders of AFRIpads spent almost a whole year perfecting this design to make it as compact, comfortable but also feminine as possible.
The factory, which is right next to the secondary school employs roughly 40 local women, allowing them to have stable jobs, bank accounts, holidays, the lot. They are all very proud to work for AFRIpads and are happily wearing the t-shirts and aprons provided. There are several tables in the room, each laden with manual sewing machines, baskets of raw materials and empty baskets for the pads to go in at different stages. With music playing in the background, it really seems like a lively, friendly place to work.
From left to right: Kate Parry, founder of UgCLA; Sonia Klumpp and Paul Grinvalds, founders of AFRIpads; Professor ABK Kasozi, Chairman of the Kitengesa Community Library board; Jim Hertling, a slightly useless but amusing chimpanzee; Lily Hertling, my second half.
This week, there is a Computer Training and Health Reading camp going on here at the Kitengesa Community Library with secondary school students (who are currently on a 2 week vacation). When we came in this morning, everybody was reading quietly, and after morning break at 11, half the group went into the computer lab to learn how to find a website on healthy living, read some articles, and then write their own based on the information they found. They’re having quite a bit of trouble doing things that I have always taken for granted, like turning on the computer and typing in a password, let alone navigating google. When the first group is finished with the computers, they flip flop with the other group and talk about what they have written.
One problem I have seen is that the website they have been told to use has some very complex language, and because of that they aren’t really taking the time to understand what they are reading, they are just writing down what it says on the site. Ellie and I are going to try to help with this after lunch by leading a discussion group and trying to get everyone to contribute to writing a group article.
Gayaza Family Learning Resource Center is not the only library enthusiastic about a reading culture for the whole family. In fact, the project was initiated by UgCLA pioneer library Kitengesa Community Library, using material created in South Africa, and developing their own based on how this goes. Yesterday, Kate, Ellie and I had the privilege of being shown around 11 different family’s houses, to see firsthand what projects the women of the group have been doing at their homes, for themselves, their families, and to generate an income.
Livestock is the most common form of project amongst the women. At some houses, there are multiple chicken coops practically bursting with birds, goats tied up to trees, and cows out grazing in fields. At some there are fields with coffee beans, maize, sweet potato, or even peppers. At some, there is a mat set up as a beading station, where paper beads can be made. Necklaces and bracelets made from these beads are very common in this part of the world, but you don’t realize how time consuming and tedious they are to make until you watch someone sit down, cut a long, triangular strip of paper, roll it up perfectly and tightly until it looks like a miniature croissant, dap a spot of glue on the end, dip it in varnish, and then hang it to dry. We are told that one necklace alone takes about 24 hours to make, and they are sold for $2, the bracelets for less. The women showing us their projects have amazing dedication and organization, paying a woman to come from Kampala to teach them how to make the jewelry.
Even more impressive than this, though, is the microfinance situation they have. Thanks to the UN 1% for Development Fund, the group has 200 plastic chairs and a tent, which they can rent out for functions and parties, on top of their own personal sources of income (the jewelry, milk, eggs. crops…). They each own a certain number of shares of the project, to get some of the resulting income. Women can also take out loans, which they have 9 months to pay back with a small interest rate. The burden of bookkeeping is shared between them, but is mostly taken care of by Margaret, who showed us around yesterday.
Earlier this year, the Family Literacy Project, which is facilitated at the library by Gorreth, wrote a bilingual book called “Library Heroes Book,” which, as the title suggests, is about the people in the library who are heroes to them. There is a long list of people and explanations about them, including Daniel Ahimbisibwe, the librarian, Kate, who founded the library, Julius Ssentume who takes care of the computers, and various donors to the library. In the front of the small book there is a note: “Everybody in this world is a hero because everybody gets a problem and solves it.”
Aisha & her coffee beans
Christine & her beads
Lucy & her cows
At the Kitengesa Community Library, helping the Library Composer Moses Ssekayiba (or Prophet Spiderman!) upload his newest songs to youtube! Tomorrow I will be taking photos and videos of him to add to the amazing music!
Moses’ older brother Julius, who is in charge of the computers at the library, once called him ”the Bob Marley of Uganda.” Enjoy!
Headed South! En route to Kitengesa, in Masaka District. We will be hanging tight there until we leave Uganda on Wednesday.
Nestled in the heart of one of Kampala’s outskirt’s slums, there lies a small oasis in the form of Kawempe Youth Center. This library, which is by far the most organized library we have seen so far, is enclosed by a blue and green fence, creating a serious and established front, but also safe and welcoming. It boasts a large room with books organized by subject according to the Dewey Decimal System (interesting that the Bible is shelved under “Factual Books”… some could disagree), a large reading room that can comfortably fit 80 people. From Mathematics textbooks to the Bible to Bridget Jones’ Diary to Shakespeare, they have it all. The reading room is usually full, as books cannot be checked out for fear of them being stolen. Instead, when you want to use a book you hand in and ID card, which they keep along with the book’s card, which are returned when you are done with the book. During holidays, when the one reading room isn’t enough to hold the vast numbers of secondary students who come to study, the youth center sets up desks borrowed from the local school in the courtyard, providing space for an extra 100 people. Although they have Internet, 15 computers, and offer “office services” (printing, photocopying, scanning, typing) to generate an income, the books are all catalogued manually, in a locally crafted set of drawers, mainly because the staff don’t know how to properly catalogue on the computer.
Outside the library, there is a green stall in the corner of the courtyard that they call a canteen, where snacks, fruit, fresh water and even AFRIpads can be bought, all at affordable prices for the children - The snacks cost 100 shillings, which is only a few cents.
As if this wasn’t enough, beside the canteen, at the edge of the courtyard that is available for dance classes and soccer matches, there is a separate building only for children, so they can play games and make noise. Thanks to the Book Aid International grant of 700 books and 100 pounds the centre received in January 2012 through UgCLA, the building has been re-vamped on both the inside and the outside. There is a lovely mural of a child standing on a stack of textbooks, against a white wall. The grubby handprint stains left by kids walking in and out make the place look well loved already. We wandered inside curiously, and immediately friendly faces pop out from behind books and card games, staring at us. We got pulled into a variation on go fish being played by two nine-year olds by the door, and after a few vicious games, we ask to take some pictures. After posing sweetly for a few seconds, our cameras and sunglasses were brutally taken hostage! All of a sudden, it was a sea of kids, climbing on us, trying on our glasses, experimenting with the zooms and flashes on our camera. We felt like we should be worried that our not-cheap digital cameras might be broken, but the only things we could bring ourselves to do were laugh and dance. At around 1, Ruth, who is in charge of looking after the kids, came in and suggested they go home to eat and bathe, and then come back to watch Mr. Bean! We looked at each other from across the room in wonder. Never had either of us thought that in such a remote place, coming from such modest backgrounds these children’s eyes would light up and they would all start laughing and clapping at the thought of Mr Bean! He really is universal, as the Olympic Ceremony showed us. Unfortunately, it was time for us to go pick up some books and have lunch at Makerere University, so we bid our new best friends farewell, and climbed back in to the Kate’s small Suzuki.
Kawempe Youth Centre Children’s Library
Reading Room in the Kawempe Youth Centre’s main building