May 2024

May 15, 2024

Dear Friends,

Another visit has passed by with vivid memories lingering, each with a story.

We are busy now preparing for our annual fundraising events to be held in Winnipeg at Saucers Cafe next month.
We were honoured to have former Winnipeggers Paul and Holly McNally join us in Ghana. They helped at our first Molly’s Camp, which took place at the Goi library. This five-day camp for 40 children was made possible thanks to a generous gift from the family of the late Molly Higginson, a former OCLF volunteer. Paul taught each child to make a wooden stool and Holly taught crocheting. It was exciting to see girls sawing away and boys eagerly crocheting. Local instructors taught broom making, reed mat construction, and weaving too. It is now up to other libraries to think of ideas for their own version of Molly’s Camp.

Freshly painted stools drying in the sun in preparation for the Camp’s celebration day

Ghana’s highly acclaimed illustrator Edmund Opare attended the launch for OCLF’s newest book, The Fisherman and His Wife, a retelling of a Brothers Grimm tale. Edmund’s watercolour illustrations beautifully convey the fisherman’s anguish as his wife’s demands go beyond reason with her final wish asking for dominion over the sun, the moon, the heavens, and the earth.

Children from Korle Gonno’s library performed a stage play based on our new book.

Our local board met and among other issues we discussed ways to raise funds to help our librarians facing health issues not covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme and beyond the scope of OCLF’s modest medical plan. During my month-long visit, I spent many hours in clinics with librarians suffering from malaria, typhoid, hypertension, and heart failure. Each condition required multiple tests and not one was covered by the national plan. Medications are costly too.

Adult learners at our Nima Centre embraced the writings of the late Efua Sutherland as part of the centenary celebrations for this remarkable Ghanaian woman, who was a playwright, author, and child’s advocate well before her time. Learners recited poetry from Sutherland’s book Playtime in Africa and shared games they played as children. The Centre was filled with laughter as we all stepped into the shoes of young children. Have you ever heard of “Ant and Tree”, a variation of “Simon Says”?

Former users of our Nima Centre of Accra, including an army sergeant, a nurse, and a midwife, approached me to thank OCLF for constructing this facility back in 2006. Rahma said her parents were very strict, and the library was the only place she was allowed to go apart from school. She went every single day. Rahma mentioned the kindness of Mr. Joseph, one of the librarians (now retired), who took a special interest in her well-being and ensured she had all the necessary textbooks to study. We were invited by CLASS FM radio to share this news on live radio.

Literacy facilitator Jibril Iddrisu (lt) with former users of the Nima Centre at CLASS FM

Mabel Hoduameda, the head librarian in the salt mining village of Kablevu, has the book, The Boy Who Grew a Forest by Sophia Gholz, in her library. She is striving to create a forest too. Since her library’s opening in 2020, she has planted trees and bushes on her library grounds and with little success. That has not deterred her from trying! Recently Mabel introduced new species of trees known to have a greater tolerance to salty soil and all 25 are growing. Each requires daily watering, not an easy task considering their village doesn’t have a water source.

Warmest wishes,

Kathy Knowles

December 2023

December 13, 2023

Dear Friends,

I recently returned from another month-long visit to OCLF libraries in Ghana, and I’m pleased to offer an update of some of the activities.

November proved to be a busy month with several annual events. The Sports Festival is always a highlight with a range of games offered. I – along with dozens of children — played ping pong on the outdoor concrete tables. OCLF recently donated several new paddles and balls to satisfy the steady stream of ping pong enthusiasts. During the week at this library, one has to read a book before playing! Alongside the sports activities, a local clinic ran free health screenings.

The annual meeting of 2023 brought together 70 library workers from nine libraries, ranging from cleaners to head librarians. Our guest speaker, David Anankaning, described how he makes bins from recycled bottles for plastic waste. His goal is to make Ghana cleaner, one bin at a time. Years ago, when David first came to our literacy classes, he could hardly write his name, and now he has the confidence to send letters and proposals to every level of government. Not long ago, he received a cash donation of GHS 20,000 (CDN $2,265) from Ghana’s First Lady to help.

The meeting continued with breakout sessions where library teams brainstormed ways to make their facilities more environmentally friendly. An enlightening discussion followed, with each panelist highlighting the pivotal role reading played in their lives. The day concluded with a buffet dinner and dance to celebrate another successful year.

The Nungua Community Library held its final 20th anniversary event. The celebration began with a 90-minute health walk accompanied by a lively marching band. The formal program included speeches, poetry recitals, a drama and several dances. The library’s verdant grounds are beautifully kept, creating an oasis in what is otherwise a barren litter-strewn environment. We planted a tree in memory of Molly Higginson, a volunteer who was present during the library’s construction in 2003.

I spent four days in the fishing community of Goi and nearby villages. Librarians in these OCLF-sponsored libraries, both working in buildings and informally under trees, continue to do an outstanding job to inspire young minds.

The Korle Gonno Community Library, in partnership with German volunteers from Musicians Without Borders, honoured teacher librarian Irene Togobo with a concert. Irene is well loved by everyone and has spearheaded the library’s music program for the last four years. Thanks to Irene’s efforts, Korle Gonno’s library boasts an orchestra comprised of library members, including children whose lives have been transformed by this experience. Sadly, Irene is presently battling cancer..

An MP invited a small delegation of librarians and myself to the Ghanaian Parliament to be formerly introduced to the speaker. It was an honour to be invited for such an occasion and to be recognized.

Yet, despite these accolades and the more formal events I attended last month, a true highlight of this trip was encountering a father reading to his two young children. According to Isaac Ofori, a volunteer librarian at Korle Gonno, the father faithfully brings his children every weekend. This was a first for after more than 30 years of visiting OCLF libraries.

During these days, when there are more people in conflict than at any other time since World War II, it is heartening to find a bit of hopeful news and peace at our libraries that are changing lives one reader at a time.  Thanks for your help in making this happen.

Warmest wishes,

Kathy Knowles

May 2023

After a month away, I am back to Winnipeg and my rhythm of life. This visit, like all others, was rich with varied experiences, each one linked to books or to libraries. A focus was OCLF’s newest book, The Land of Plenty. Clearing these books from the port, coordinating storage logistics, and seeing to its launch three weeks later took considerable time. There was a flurry of activity at our Nima Centre. There is nothing like an event to make a place shine. Launch day featured children singing Imagine with lyrics by John Lennon from a new library book with the same title, a quartet of young musicians playing a Ghanaian melody, two library dancing troupes, adult literacy learners reading from their creative writing pieces (as encouraged by The Shoe Project, a Canadian initiative), and the mayor speaking on behalf of her municipality. Ronke Ampiah, local board chair, and I presented copies to all head librarians.

This book features day-to-day scenes from Ghana with vocabulary reflecting local terminology. Award-winning South African illustrator Toby Newsome did an outstanding job. It was a joy to see the reactions of young library users when they first opened its pages. For many children, their favourite page was Auntie Joana’s Food Joint as it features several favourite Ghanaian dishes and, most significantly, because they know her in real life. I wrote to Huck Scarry, Richard Scarry’s son, before the launch to let him know that his father’s many word books inspired this one.

I visited nine OCLF libraries. It is always encouraging to see that these facilities remain welcoming and neat. At Goi I marvelled as their librarian Vivian Amanor read book after book for 2 ½ hours (!) to kindergarten children. She swiftly changed back and forth from English to Dangme with such ease and enthusiasm. Vivian strongly believes that books change lives.

I also ventured to a small farming community in the north where Mawuli Fianyo, a former library member, is now teaching. Living there is challenging with no potable water (water is fetched from a river 15 minutes away), no electricity, and the school is void of any learning materials. Just the same, Mawuli does his best. After reading OCLF’s Fati and the Green Snake to a group of students, Mawuli divided the children into different characters from the story. Soon children were jumping around as monkeys and flying like birds, Fati was collecting firewood with her family, and, of course, the snake was nearby waiting in a bush. His school even has a chess club, a skill Mawuli learned from his library days.

Librarians continue to expand their outreach with ideas and new activities. Many now go online to find out what days are celebrated around the world, and they create their own rendition whether it’s Mother Language Day, Earth Day, Colour Day, Chocolate Day or Poetry Day. Library Coordinator Winifred Kyeremeh organizes monthly meetings for head librarians. These sessions provide opportunities for librarians to learn from each other.

Thank you for believing that OCLF is making a difference.

Warmest wishes,

Kathy Knowles

December 2022

December 8, 2022

Dear Friends,

Winnipeg’s minus 26 degree temperature took my breath away when I stepped out of the airport last week following my one-month stay in Ghana.

These days Ghanaians are struggling with inflation rates above 40% and the high cost of living. Road traffic is down as many car owners can no longer afford the high fuel prices. Fortunately Covid is no longer a major health concern.

Our libraries remain community hubs with a constant flow of children, activities, and events. Our original library, renamed the Kathy Knowles Community Library in 1993 by local directors, celebrated its 30th anniversary November 13. Children came in their numbers for a party, which included games, a book reading, singing Happy Birthday, and sharing ice cream and cake. Joana Felih, the original dynamic librarian who cut the ribbon at the library’s opening, remains passionate about what she does.

This year’s annual librarians’ meeting theme was Inclusion for All. A physiotherapist spoke about the importance for families with children with disabilities to have their children assessed and treated. Massawudu Zakari, now in his twenties, shared his experience as a child when he could only crawl until receiving surgical and physio treatment .He said, “Handicapped people are made to feel inferior and not useful; however most handicapped people are greatly talented and have a lot of ideas to contribute to the growth of the world.

In November, the libraries featured the work of Eric Carle, the late American children’s writer and illustrator. Children and their librarians took great delight using Carle’s style of cutting out decorated papers and creating their own works of art.

Literacy learners from one library went on an excursion to Parliament House. Everyone was fascinated with the lively discussions (and heckling!) between political parties as they debated the recently-announced budget.

The Accra College of Education Community Library held their 10th reading competition for neighbourhood schools. Competing students and their supporting teachers and fellow students came together to enjoy the occasion. A teacher generously donated a cake.

Children at this library showed me a modest power-generating windmill that they constructed with their science teacher. For more than a month they used the library as their classroom. This project was inspired by their reading of the Malawi-based true story of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. 

During my stay I carried around a draft copy of OCLF’s newest book The Land of Plenty to ensure that readers of all ages and backgrounds approve the illustrations and accompanying text for this 750-word book. This included spending three hours with a poet one evening where each word and illustration was pondered and, in many cases, deliberated on. This book will be printed in early 2023.

June 2022

June 3, 2022

Dear Friends,

After a month away, much of it spent in the bustling city of Accra where traffic is ever-present and concrete covers much of the land, it was soothing to arrive back in Winnipeg and see its emerging green canopy. (When I left in late April, our city was still covered in snow.)

Yet, while in Ghana, I adore the rhythm of my day-to-day life and library routines, my extended ‘family’ of Ghanaian friends, and delight in the various events that keep me busy. Here’s a snapshot of a few recent library highlights.

Mother’s Day is an honoured tradition in Ghana. OCLF’s library in Korle Gonno hosted a multi-media production of Eté, a poetic eulogy written by Ladé Wosoru, a highly acclaimed Ghanaian poet and retired surgeon, for his late mother. He generously graced the occasion. His powerful words conveyed the depth of his love and admiration for his strong mother. Youthful narrators and a chorus recited his poem against a backdrop of dancers, drummers, and a small musical ensemble of recorders and a violin.

On May 17, the Nima Centre offered blood pressure checks to commemorate World Hypertension Day. Naomi Awusi, the Centre’s manager, set up a table outside the main reading hall and 87 adults came. High blood pressure is often called “the silent killer” as many people are unaware of their condition until it’s too late. Offering such a service identifies individuals at risk. Participants were grateful.

Throughout the month, OLCF was privileged to host Cheryl Schramm, a volunteer from Ottawa. She delighted eager minds with daily science experiments, Wordle puzzles, chess games, and book clubs. Thank you, Cheryl.

Another event, and this one in the rural community of Goi, celebrated Grandmothers’ Day. Seventy grandmothers arrived clutching their hand-drawn invitations. They enjoyed hearing their grandchildren recite poetry, read from their favourite stories, and act in plays. The grandmothers had their turn to share their words of wisdom too. The event was supposed to begin at noon, but some of the grandmothers were in their seats by 9 a.m. To accommodate the early arrivals, we started just after 11 a.m.

Two hundred female upper primary and junior high school students gathered at the Mamprobi Gale Community Library to attend a program highlighting World Menstruation Day. Librarian Belinda Dogbatse presented information and gave detailed explanations as to the different products available. Everyone left with a package of pads.

At our newest library in the village of Kablevu, I was in awe of the dozens of children who sat on the floor for hours while listening to stories read aloud in their mother tongue.

David Anakaning, a long-time current literacy learner, provided constant inspiration. He is making plastic recycling bins using discarded plastic bottles and putting them on street corners near his home. Every Sunday he travels with his wheelbarrow, empties his plastic bins, separates the plastic accordingly, and builds more bins to extend his outreach. His dream is to “help keep our environment clean.” How beautiful is that!

My favourite moments are always sharing books with children. I delighted in meeting little Edna, just over age 2, who lives next door to our library in Osu. She was often the first to arrive and among the last to leave. On this visit, I was most grateful to OCLF donors who donated their Aeroplan Member Donation Program miles for my travel.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

December 2021

December 10, 2021

Dear Friends,

Once again I am writing from my desk in Winnipeg, nice and cosy from Winnipeg’s cold air.

I celebrated a number of events including the 10th anniversary of the Accra College of Education Community Library. Matilda Yeboah, its head librarian, organized a full program that included an eight-school reading competition, a health walk, a panel discussion titled The Importance of Libraries for National Development, and a birthday cake for the children!

Climate change hit home during my stay when huge waves came crashing down and wiped out hundreds of homes in fishing villages along the coast. Three of our librarians serving at our informal mini-libraries lost their homes. Ruth (pictured at right) was one of them. After relocating, Ruth is still returning to gather and read to children in front of her old home. She also wants to initiate a new library where she now lives – a couple of kilometres inland.

Part of my trip included doing research for a new illustrated book, one that will include approximately 700 English words depicting day-to-day Ghanaian life. Toby Newsome, a South African illustrator, sent me rough drawings by email that I was able to show around. To better reflect the entire country, I travelled north more than 800km by car. Foods definitely do vary depending on one’s location and most are season-dependent.

We held a book launch for Maa and Me, an OCLF mother tongue Dangme/English board book, with children at Kablevu’s library. After the brief ceremony we gave out copies to those featured in the book and frozen yogurt – all 300 pieces – to everyone. Sophia was delighted to receive her own copy.

Some of you might remember from a previous newsletter that I found a stuffed toy bunny on the beach. After multiple COVID-related delays, a carton of new stuffed bunnies from Brauns-Heitmann finally arrived. We had a ‘Bunny Party, and the children who wrote to Germany each received a toy. Children are always fascinated when I show them Bunny’s ears that still have a few grains of sand left from his arduous journey!

The highlight of the month was hosting a jazz party with all library workers to honour the late Joan Mariacher, a tremendous supporter of OCLF from Vancouver, who passed away last year. It was partially through Joan’s generosity that we were able to build a network of libraries in the Greater Accra region. Joan loved jazz, and although she never wanted any recognition for her donations, I thought this was a fitting tribute. Joana Felih, OCLF’s longest serving librarian, wrote,“ Due to the jazz performance most of us will be jazz lovers.”

 

June 2021

June 17, 2021

Dear Friends,

I returned to Winnipeg this week, the trip home being a little longer given my mandatory three-day hotel stay in Toronto.

Our daughter Sophie kindly brought me ice cream and her family waved from outside the hotel’s parking lot to my fourth floor window. It gave me a glimpse as to how such gestures of connection must have meant for personal care home residents over the past year.

Ghana is officially respecting all COVID-19 protocols although the reality on the ground is a little different with a range of compliance.  Fortunately, in recent weeks, the active case numbers have remained low at around 1,200 with parts of the country now case-free. Their continued vaccine rollout is dependent on the arrival of more vaccines.

We distributed 60 library-in-a-bag gifts to deserving children living in seven coastal villages. They are among hundreds of children who attend informal library sessions where they sit on mats under trees to listen to their “library madams” read stories aloud.  When I asked these children to name their favourite books, a sea of hands went up. Prior to these libraries, children knew only their classroom textbooks.

Our newest library in the coastal village of Kablevu, which opened in November, receives more than 200 children daily. Mabel, their librarian, told me that her job was “a dream come true.” Every day, she and co-worker Sylvanus clean the multiple-louvred windows, sweep the floors, dust the tables, neatly arrange the books, and water the recently planted tree seedlings. Two months ago, we installed a rainwater collection system to harvest water, a precious resource since the community has not received piped water for more than a year. A Ghanaian company generously donated their tank.

In Accra, the Mamprobi Gale Community Library will be 20 years on June 20th. Last week, there was a flurry of activity as everyone was busy creating artwork to adorn the walls, writing stories for illustrated anniversary books, and inviting past library users and personnel to be part of the celebration.

At the Korle Gonno Community Library, I enjoyed watching Sosu and the Bukari Boys, a play based on Lawrence Darmani’s short story and a required text for final year junior high school students. I was especially moved when I learned a father of one of the performers custom-made waitress uniforms for this show. Poetry and musical interludes with multiple instruments added to this event. The head teacher told the audience of students and teachers that he was “amazed” to witness such talent.

Korle Gonno’s theatre hall was a whirlwind of energy every day from mid-afternoon until the solar power went off, usually around 8:30 pm. Three library dance troupes are competing in Ghana’s TV Africa’s multi-week talent dance show. Their excitement is mounting.

We hosted a Zoom call at our library in Osu between a Canadian donor and our literacy students, which allowed our adult learners to experience firsthand the real-time use of this popular communication technology.

Winifred Obeng Kyeremeh is Osu Library Fund’s new library coordinator. Beyond the logistical details of understanding how nine libraries operate, she remains steadfast to our mission: Sharing the Joy of Reading. Osu Library Fund board members continue to provide essential support and guidance.

Before closing, I would like to say our carpenter, now about 86 years (he doesn’t know his exact birthdate), is still eager to take on new jobs. His furniture with attention to detail and quality remains unsurpassed. Like me, he feels he is part of our extended “library family.”

Thank you for your encouragement,

December 2020

DIRECTOR’S NEWSLETTER

December 11, 2020

Dear Friends,

Returning to Winnipeg from Ghana on Dec. 7 was different this year. Normally in early December, following my annual November visit, there is a joyful hum as people in the city exchange holiday greetings and prepare for extended family gatherings. This time, however, the streets are quiet and holiday plans are shut down due to COVID restrictions.

During my three-week visit, I remained diligent with mask wearing, but it was evident that the majority of the people had little fear of the pandemic that is gripping the rest of the world. Ghana’s active case count remains below 1,000, a relatively small number given Ghana’s population of close to 30 million. Health officials there continue to test medical personnel every two weeks and follow contact tracing.

The lack of concern for COVID was opposite to election fervor. Banners were everywhere. Last weekend tens of thousands of Ghanaians took to the streets in rallies supporting their favourite candidates. On this past Monday, Ghanaians went to the polling stations and voted for the incumbent, Nana Akufo-Addo.

Our libraries started up cautiously in early July with reduced hours and an array of COVID protocols. Initially they were closed to younger children in keeping with government policy of primary school closures until January 2021. Municipal offices donated supplies and OCLF augmented as needed. In August, as case numbers dropped, we allowed children to return. Many libraries have created exciting programs during this time. Vivian Amanor, Goi’s dynamic head librarian, started a reading clinic. During my visit to the fishing village’s library, I could see groups of children eagerly embracing their lessons. Social distancing was no longer possible and mask wearing wasn’t enforced, but everyone washed their hands carefully and the library was thoroughly cleaned each day. Goi has not recorded a single COVID case.

A dozen children at our library in Osu held a book club where they took turns reading different books. Their favourite novel was A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen. It tells the story of a family separated by the building of Germany’s Berlin Wall. Such books enliven the history and awareness of countries far from the children’s home compounds.

One afternoon I visited the busy Nima Centre, an OCLF facility built in 2006. When I arrived, there were dozens of women and men in full swing making soap, hand sanitizer, beaded items, and leather sandals. It was part of a 10-day workshop sponsored by the local Zongo community. At 3:30 p.m., after the place was immaculately swept with all chairs away, others arrived. This time, it was a group of young classical musicians ready to perform a concert for their peers. For many, this was their first time to perform on stage. By 4:30, members of the theatre group were anxiously awaiting the start of their rehearsal. When I left the Centre at 6, the literacy students were already arriving for their 7:30 classes. What a lively place and with such an array of activities!

As always, it was inspirational to meet our adult literacy learners. David Anankaning, a 49-year-old night watchman who has attended for seven years now wrote, “I have learnt a lot from the library and I am still learning. My dream is to go to the university.” He enthusiastically explained to me that the University of Ghana has an entry option for mature students. I said OCLF would do its best to support him. When David began, he didn’t know the alphabet.

In the coastal village of Kablevu, I completed the photography for two new board books that will eventually be distributed freely to new mothers who attend family planning sessions in conjunction with well-baby monthly weighing and vaccination clinics. Local fishermen made every effort to help me as I recorded shared moments between Moses, a fisher for more than 50 years, and his namesake grandson.

The real highlight of my visit to Ghana was on Nov. 29 when we opened a new library in the aforementioned Kablevu, a fishing and salt-mining community where the entire village came out to honour the occasion. Children recited poetry, the youth pledged their support, and the chief in all his regalia cut the ribbon. The event concluded with frozen yogurt treats for everyone and loud music that the children energetically danced to. The library recorded 1,239 visits in its first week of operation.

As this year comes to a close, we wish you well, holding hope for a decline in COVID cases and the promise of a vaccine only days away.

Thinking of everyone,

April 2020

DIRECTOR'S NEWSLETTER

April 3, 2020

Dear Friends,

I am writing to you on behalf of Osu Children’s Library Fund volunteers in Canada and our librarians in Ghana to update you on the effect of COVID-19 upon our libraries.

This pandemic is a world event and collectively countries are weeping for those in its path. Ghana’s first infected case was reported on March 13, and now there are 204 cases with five dead. I fear the numbers will mount quickly from here. Hospitals with well-equipped ICU beds are not readily available for those who might need them.  In a system where there is no free health care the crisis looms deep. It is difficult to fathom the potential crisis.

On March 27, the President of Ghana announced a lockdown of two major regions including the capital, Accra. This measure is intended to help control the virus spread, but it is having catastrophic consequences for the multitudes who work from hand-to-mouth. No work means no money to buy food, and even at that the food prices have almost doubled since the virus arrived. Theophilus Tsedi, OCLF’s painter since 1992, phoned me on Tuesday to say that to buy  a little sugar to prepare rice water for his children was difficult.

OCLF is doing its best to ensure that our faithful library workers are receiving their government pay. It isn’t easy. Some government offices are closed now because of the lockdown, and these are the same places where salaries are disbursed. The Human Resource Head of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly told me today that they are working despite the situation to prepare February salaries. Many librarians are still waiting for January’s salary to arrive.

On Monday, I asked our librarians to share their messages to you so that this letter reflected their voices, too.

Martin Legend, the Nima Centre’s Theatre Director, wrote, “I receive messages and calls from theatre members who want to know when we are resuming. I am as eager to start as they are. We can only pray and hope that we will wake up one day to meet the most exciting news that we are free and safe to go back and pursue our dreams and aspirations. May God heal the world and His people.”

Sharon Gyan-Opoku, the Mamprobi head librarian, wrote, “Everyone is afraid of what is happening now. We are also practicing safety measures seriously to help ourselves and our country to stop the cases from increasing every day. We all have to stay safe in these difficult times.”

Irene Togobo, a librarian at Korle Gonno, wrote,”I think of all the hope the library brings. Now what will the children do in this season? This is when they need the support the most.”

Joana Felih, OCLF’s first librarian, wrote, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this trying time. Please stay safe, and we hope this situation will come to an end soon.”

The Government of Ghana closed all libraries and schools three weeks ago.  We are still making sure that our libraries are being looked after by caretakers.

Despite the endless grief that one hears and reads, here is a little cheerful story that spans three continents and a full year.

Last April, I found a German-made stuffed bunny washed up on the shore, not too far from where I stay in Accra. I spent several hours emptying sand from its inside, washing it, and then carefully stitching it together.

During my November visit, I told the children at one library about ‘Bunny.’ Afterwards they wrote to Brauns-Heitmann, the company that made Bunny along with its general household products and food and Easter egg dyes. The children asked those working at Brauns-Heitmann how Bunny could have possibly travelled all the way from Germany to Ghana by sea. I mailed their letters in late December.

Last month, we received a reply from the company with a possible explanation in an illustrated story format, partially inspired by the children’s ideas. Only today, I received an email saying that DHL will be delivering 20 new stuffed bunnies to my Winnipeg address. I will deliver these gifts to the young letter writers when I return to Ghana, a date that remains uncertain given these unknown times.

Yours sincerely,

Kathy Knowles

December 2019

DIRECTOR'S NEWSLETTER

December 12, 2019

Dear Friends,

Once again I am back from Ghana. I realize that I have been in Ghana every November for 30 consecutive years. At the moment, I cannot see through the panes of frosted glass on my window, very different from the moist salt-stained louvres at my Accra apartment overlooking the sea.

November is a month of annual library events – a Food and Arts Exhibition (4th year), a Reading Competition (8th year), a Sports Festival (11th year), and a Librarians’ Workshop (18th year). This latter workshop brought together 70 library staff members from 12 libraries, and we heard about new ideas from each. Mawusi Nudekor Awity, Executive Director of Ghana’s National Vocational Training Institute, spoke about the increasing numbers of unemployed university graduates. She is encouraging Ghana’s youth to use their head, heart and hands for meaningful job opportunities. At the end of these workshops, librarians learn an activity to share back at their libraries. This year it was making pencil cases from plastic water bottles, zippers and Ghanaian fabric.

The Korle Gonno Community Library hosted its second Art Exhibition and an Interschool Quiz, Cultural dancing and the library’s 13-piece orchestra added to the festivities. The most elaborate art piece was a three-storied, six-room house, complete with inside lights, as fashioned by librarian Rachel Yeboah. Using picture books for inspiration, she created a tiled-floor bathroom with a complete set of fixtures,  a bathmat, a pedal-operated garbage can, a laundry hamper overflowing with clothes, a scale, a mirror, a bar of soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a water cup in a wall bracket,  a toilet roll, and a tissue dispenser. Hundreds of children came by to see it, including many who live in one-room dwellings.

The Nima Maamobi Gale Community Library hosted a 10-week creative writing workshop led by Emily Williamson, a remarkable American woman with a passion for children and literacy.  On the last day, I met Salimatu, a seven-year-old eager participant, who approached me to say thank you. Salimatu’s mother told me her daughter was keen to register for a well-known youth talent show to demonstrate her talent – writing stories!

The Nungua Community Library had an exceptionally busy month with a daily average of 305 visits. I attended a school program with 250 school children and their teachers. Mimi’s Purse, an OCLF publication, was read aloud with an accompanying skit.

On November 28th, citizens from the coastal salt mining village of Kablevu celebrated a sod-cutting ceremony for their new library. The program included dancing, a Cinderella drama with a twist (after marrying the prince, Cinderella goes off to seek higher education), and speeches. Currently children from Kablevu must walk to a neighbouring village for school, their existing informal library has already made a significant difference.

I also took photos for OCLF’s next board book featuring one-year-old Ishmael.  His mother Ruth, who is also the village librarian, and I had fun setting up scenarios to appeal to a young audience. Sadly climate change is having catastrophic consequences for villages like Ruth’s lining Ghana’s coast. Only 20 yards away from their home, you can see dwellings filled by encroaching sand. Ruth keeps her library books on a table.

On a previous visit to Ghana, I found a German-made stuffed bunny toy on the shore in Accra. Except for its more buoyant head, its body was weighted down heavily with accumulated sand; I marveled at how such a little thing could have been carried across the sea.on this trip, I was able to identify its origins from its faded label.  As a result, children at one library took up the fun challenge of writing letters to the company asking How Bunny came to Ghana’s seaside? I have a whole package of letters ready to send to Germany along with pictures with the hopeful expectation that we might solve the mystery!

Soon, OCLF’s website will have a new look including a blog site with regular update thanks to Cavemen, a creative website design company based in Accra.

On behalf of the children and all library staff, I wish you much peace and joy for this season and always

Yours sincerely,

Kathy Knowles