In recent conversations, I’ve been summing up my role at Hatua Likoni as a ‘Management Consultant.’ The majority of my efforts dealt with the internal workings of the organization, putting systems in place that will keep it growing and functioning smoothly, hopefully for years to come. Most of my results are therefore somewhat invisible to anyone glancing at the organization. It was not the typical “go volunteer in Africa” experience and I’m fine with that. I know exactly how crucial strong internal management and various sets of systems are for the success of an organization’s programs, and the satisfaction of its staff.
I did have one big project though that could have a very visible and amazing impact on the people of Likoni. My role in it was somewhat small, but it provided the key push to get momentum stirred up in the community to carry it forward to completion. (And that is exactly the type of role that I believe foreign development workers should have in developing communities! Inspire local people to address and resolve their own issues and needs.)
Back in September, I organized an event at Hatua for International Literacy Day. It is an official holiday founded by UNESCO, celebrated annually on September 8th, and first observed in 1967. The aim of the day is to focus attention on the need to promote worldwide literacy. On this day, individuals, organizations, and countries throughout the world renew their efforts to promote literacy and demonstrate their commitment to providing education for all.
On my initial tour of Hatua in June, I saw boxes of donated books locked in one of the bathroom stalls. We had no shelves to put them on, and no funds to create a library that would allow students and adults to check them out. So there they sat… Until this day that celebrates literacy initiatives, when we opened up the boxes! We picked out a few hundred books, sorting them into those for Young Children, Primary School students, Secondary School students and Adults. And we set up a large table surrounded by chairs for each category.
A local musician donated his sound system for our use that day, and chairs and a stage were set up in one half of the large hall. Eight talks on the topic of literacy were given by local residents, educators, and government officials. They all encouraged the students to pursue their goals and further their schooling.
Hatua Likoni’s primary objective is providing high-quality affordable education and academic guidance to underprivileged, intelligent students. The people of Likoni are valuing education as more and more important for their children, but resources remain limited, and so therefore do opportunities. In order to promote this enthusiasm for learning and reading, Hatua gave Likoni a “library for a day” so that children and adults could enjoy the thrill of reading – an activity that few have ever been able to cultivate.
- In the 24 hours following the event, 8 children showed up at our office asking to check out books from the “library.” Adults and children continued to show up through December, wanting some time with our books. We decided to print temporary member cards so that we could check out books to people, and they loved it!
- Hatua Likoni co-founder Gabrielle Fondiller and Rashid Gakucha, District Representative to the National Youth Council, discussed the situation, and decided to pursue raising the necessary funds without the government’s assistance, as long-ago promised funds were never going to arrive.
- A stakeholder’s meeting was held ten days after the event, which led to the establishment of the Likoni Library Planning Committee, comprised of local teachers. This committee is organizing a local “harambee” (fundraiser event) for the library early this spring.
- A carpenter was called in to estimate costs and they are estimated at 523,295 Ksh –> only $6,977!
Can you help us reach this very attainable goal? Can you donate a shelf or a chair to Likoni’s first-ever library? Go to our Library page to see donation options, and to read more about the five-year history of this effort to provide a library for these Kenyan children. If you’d like to know more, ask me anything you like!
Right now, kids crouch on the floor of our office to sift through stacks of books, because we don’t have shelves there either. You can be a part of fixing this, and providing a learning environment that will encourage success!