Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Library - January 13, 2007

The library. Did I mention how much enjoyment I’m getting from seeing how incredibly appreciated the library is? Last night there were 48 children squeezed in this small room, sitting on the floor with not an inch to maneuver between them eagerly poring over our collection of global issues and science books and magazines. Two hours in conditions just right for sparking conflict with not a word of instruction needed from me. Tonight I arrived back from a long motorbike trip to visit our former nurse and found the priest from Magburoka waiting for me to help him use the internet. With the priest and a number of youth at the laptops, dozens of children at the window pleading, “Kadiatu, we want to study, let us in!”, the chief arriving with a thermos of coffee and powdered milk for the patrons of the “internet café”, the adults relieved to finally be able to squeeze in without stepping on children, Kouame introducing the internet to a cluster of youth, AKT and John finally introduced to imovie (so they can edit their World AIDS Day video), Mohamed organizing and tidying the book shelves and boxes (and searching for the book on the birth of babies he’s been reading), I was able to sit back and watch the goings on for the first time. And agreed with the chief who’s been telling me we need a new separate building for the library; that this is too vital a need to be relegated to a small, already-in-use, space. I can see it now…a large room with at least two solar lights (we all get by with one dim bulb in the corner now) for the children to browse, read, and study, space for them to also make use of the many hands-on literacy materials I’ve brought….a place for adults and youth to read and browse, room for the computers and video editing….and perhaps all of this attached to the desperately needed boarding house for students coming from the villages to study at the junior secondary school. There is a perfect spot across from the chief’s barrie (main gathering point) that could be used and solar systems available in Freetown for a very reasonable price. With the youth of Mapaki having already started making the mud bricks we’ll need, I can see this coming together before long and serving as a model for a similar set-up at the cdpeace site at Mayagba or at other villages. Yesterday the visiting doctor pointed out that what we have here is unique; that there is not another library or collection of similar books for children anywhere else in Sierra Leone, and that the children here are incredibly privileged to be able to access these invaluable resources. I feel similarly privileged to be part of this development and can’t think of a better way to spend my days…starting the morning sharing the tranquility and beauty of the garden and ending the evening witnessing the joy of sharing greatly appreciated books and learning resources.

Tonight is the 40th day memorial and wake for the Mapaki residents who were killed in the tragic accident, the village is again overflowing with overnight guests (the wake will take place throughout the night so many haven’t arranged places to sleep), and visitors and guests have been streaming through the library to look, wonder, read (dictionaries continue to be immensely popular with the young people), and thank me. It is especially great to see the many high school and few college students return to Mapaki (all high school students leave Mapaki for school) and marvel at the new developments. I think we’ll be seeing more returning regularly. Well, the drumming has started across the road and a hundred or so children are singing my favourite Temne songs. I think I’ll collect the dictionaries and close up the library for the night.