At Book Aid International, our job isn’t just about sending books to sub-Saharan Africa. It’s also to support local organisations and communities in running their libraries, to help them share these rich resources, and to assess just how much a difference is made through our work. That’s what Rob, our head of programmes and operations, is doing in Ethopia at the moment – so we thought we’d share some of Rob’s observations and impressions as they come back to us. This will be the first of six blog posts, stay tuned for the next five!
Day one: dinner by moonlight
After arriving in Addis Ababa yesterday I am on the road to Nazareth, or Adama as it was originally known by the locals and is officially once again. But Nazareth is what many people still call this large busy town of trade, agriculture and commerce. I visit two libraries that Book Aid International has supported in conjunction with our local partner CODE Ethiopia, and with funding from Aggreko plc.
The first library is at Dembela High School and even though our books have only recently arrived, they are already organised and on the shelves. CODE Ethiopia trained the library committee late last year, including staff from the neighbouring elementary school which borders onto the high school and is sharing the library, and also advised on the purchase of local books, which we were able to provide funds for in this project. We also provided funds for furniture and shelves which were built by the local vocational school.
The library is busy with enthusiastic students, one of whom, Biniam Beneberu Ayere, tells me that, ‘in my class there a lot of students that have a lack of habit of reading’, and lack the knowledge they need. ‘So how can I get these kinds of knowledge? Because of this library. Before this library was opened, I had no habit of reading but because of you (Book Aid International) and the initiatives of our teachers, we come here to read and we read a lot of books and get a lot of knowledge…so let us read and let’s change our lives, let’s change our country, and let’s help our families.’
It is clear the school is benefitting hugely from the library and is appreciative of the support we have provided. The same project has helped set up a library in the youth centre just down the road from the school. The books from the UK have not been processed yet but the library has been set up and is very popular on Saturdays. In the week it is only open on Wednesday and Friday but they are hoping the local district government will fund it better in the future.
In the evening, I eat dinner by moonlight (the electricity failed after 10 minutes) by a fountain (with no water) in a rather nice garden restaurant with staff from CODE Ethiopia and the local educational zonal administrator. I go to bed still with a slight tingling sensation in my mouth – a result of the Ethiopians love for chillies in their cooking!