As you may know, I have been sending and taking books to Kenya for nine years now with the idea to start libraries in local communities. The idea to do this came years ago when I attended a book launch for my publisher in Kenya at the Serena Hotel. A cabinet level officer for education was at the event and made a simple request: "Our people are bored. Help us start libraries." I thought this suggestion was unusual for two reasons.
First, I had heard Kenyans were not that fond of reading. I had heard the derogatory but somewhat humorous saying that, "If you want to hide something from an African, put it in a book." Second, everyone else who was there that night was from Kenya. I was the only outsider, and I assumed if the Kenyans present were interested in libraries, they had had their whole lives to do something about their absence.
I decided to experiment and bring in some books during my subsequent visits, and the
interest in getting and reading them was intense among my friends. Then I started bringing suitcases of books when i came or brought others with me. Then we heard that people were shipping containers to Kenya with all kinds of supplies, and I hitched a ride, so to speak, in some of their containers to get even more books over. Finally, I started to fill and ship containers with nothing but books, used computers, and schools supplies to distribute to our partners.
During my last visit, I asked to go visit some of our libraries started by Pastor Peter Kihungi. We have two other libraries outside of Nairobi, but there are four started by Pastor Peter and these are the ones I am reporting on in this update. The first and biggest is in the village of Banana, about a 45-minute ride from Nairobi. There we have built a building to house our largest collection, and we now are equipped with Wifi so the youth can use the computers to access information online. The pictures of this library are pictured above (click on picture to enlarge it).
The second library is at the Kawaida Primary School close to Banana. This is a government school that is relatively new and shows progress every time I visit. The government built the school, but the community must supply and outfit it, so we gave some money for shelves a few years ago. As you can see in the pictures, the shelves are not sturdy enough and have sagged under the weight of the books. You can also see the use the books have had. Frederick, the headmaster, has asked for more books and another investment in shelves, which he promised would be built to handle a heavier load the next time.
The third library is in the village of Kikuyu, where there is an Anglican training center used for all types of educational endeavors. The day I visited there was a cooking school going on, and there are Bible classes and many other vocational offerings made available to the people. This library, like our other libraries, needs help with shelves, tables, and chairs. Many of the books they have cannot be put out permanently, so they are stored in boxes and brought out for special occasions.
The fourth library is located where Pastor Peter is currently pastoring at Christ the King Anglican Church in Ruaka, a growing area due to the recent opening of Two Rivers Mall, the largest mall in Africa, or so I am told. The church recently designated funds to build their own storage cabinets that lock, a significant investment that indicates they recognize the value of what they have for the youth of their community. They also established a nursery room with some of the books for the younger children, using a Disney theme, which is quite common in Kenya.
The need for our libraries is for shelving and library furniture. If you care to contribute, you can use my website to do so, or you can send a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221. If you know anyone or any organization that funds library projects, I know our libraries are worthy investments, and the resources will be put to good use with accountability for the results. If you have donated books over the years, thank you. I am not in the position right now to receive more books, but when I am, I will make the announcement. Right now, if you can help us care for the books we have sent by building shelves and tables, please give generously. Thank you and God bless you!