Hearing from grateful users

We, the Nima-Maamobi Community Learning Centre’s beneficiaries, are immensely appreciative to Madame Kathy Knowles, the philanthropist who changed the story of our education by building the Centre with art and cultural facilities. Our education was impacted positively to a huge extent and all thanks to her. Not only did we have access to books in a setting that encouraged learning, staff members consistently provided assistance, direction and guidance to promote the community’s overall academic growth and success.

My name is Rahma, a professional nurse, and together with Elham Ibrahim, a midwife, and Army Sergeant Adamu Abdul Rasheed, we represent the entire community. We say, “May God bless your endeavors and efforts and continue to guide you towards your goal. We will always be grateful to you Mum.”

The Fisherman and His Wife

The children and staff at our Korle Gonno Community Library in Accra will be launching OCLF’s newest publication, The Fisherman and His Wife, a retelling of a Brothers Grimm tale written by Kathy Knowles and illustrated by Edmund Opare, on Thursday April 18, 2024 at 3pm. We will also be celebrating the Centenary of Efua Sutherland, a Ghanaian playwright, director, dramatist, author, poet, child advocate, and cultural activist. All are cordially invited!

If you are able to come kindly RSVP to kknowles@mymts.net

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

The Land of Plenty

Joana Felih (left), a longstanding librarian and a good cook, displays a page from The Land of Plenty, a Ghana-centric word book written by Kathy Knowles and illustrated by Toby Newsome. Justine Ativor, a colleague, is with her.

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.

Live theatre at the Nima Centre

The Kathy Knowles Theatre Company and the House of Good News Foundation performed The Spirit of Adzido by Isaac Abban on April 2. The Centre’s Martin Adjei Legend directed the production.

World Colour Day

Our libraries celebrate March 21 to recognize the important role colour plays to make our world a better place.