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


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


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

May 2016

Director's Letter

May 25, 2016

Dear Friends,

I returned from Ghana two weeks ago and continue to admire the dedication of our hardworking staff and celebrate the enthusiasm of our library members and adult literacy students. In 2015, we recorded 283,382 visits.

Lizzy and her newborn.

My month-long visit included events reflecting the passage of time: I was honoured to attend a traditional naming ceremony for Lizzy Acheampong’s eight-day-old baby girl. I also attended Kate Akwa’s wedding ceremony with her library colleagues. A group of us expressed our sympathy to the family of the late Malam Awudu, a committee member who for more than 15 years guided the Nima library.

I spent much of my first week at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly office including meetings with Accra’s mayor and senior city officials. Their office values our partnership, and we rely on their financial support for staff salaries and utilities. It is not always easy. Energy costs have gone up 70% since January 2016.

A victory cake!

For more than two years our ‘Mother’ library, housed in a 40-foot shipping container and opened in 1992, was at the risk of being demolished by a developer. After countless emails, letters, phone calls and several visits to see the mayor, we received a letter from the Lands Commission on May 6th giving us approval to stay. This was a significant victory! Soon we will be carrying out extensive renovations including the construction of two flush toilets.

Joanna Felih, our head librarian who has been with us for 25 years, taught library skills to three lay librarians. They left with boundless enthusiasm for their new assignments. Learning how to instill the joy of reading is critical as few children associate reading with anything beyond academic gain.

Planning the next move!

Planning the next move!

My husband, John Knowles, introduced chess during his November 2015 visit when we celebrated our 25th anniversary. I was encouraged on this visit to see chess gaining popularity. One librarian told me that he was planning to Google ‘chess competitions’ so that he could plan one!

I was honoured to cut the ribbon for a new community library in Accra. It was initiated by Florence Adjepong, an Osu Library Fund board member, and her husband, Sammy. Such places provide hope for communities where educational opportunities are limited.

On each visit it is always special to meet with past library members, especially beneficiaries of our high school scholarships.

Lardi is in her first year at Islamic University College. She told me that she and four others have started a drama club there. This came about because one of her fellow students knew that she performed at our Nima Centre where we have a flourishing theatre company.

Nana and Me

Nana and Me

Talata is in her third year at the University of Ghana and will graduate in 2017 as a physician’s assistant. She still finds time to work four evenings a week as a literacy instructor at our Nima Centre where she imparts her eagerness for learning.

I am working with Ghana’s talented illustrator Edmund Opare to create a book about the sounds where I live in Nima, an urban ghetto of Accra. Where else does one hear a three-wheeled garbage truck sing alongside roaring cars and trucks and wandering animals?!  Edmund and I are going to Washington, D.C., in October to accept an award from the Children’s African Book Award jury for our most-recently published book, Nana and Me. It will be Edmund’s first trip off the African continent.

There is always a lot happening. Now that I am back in Winnipeg, I will continue to follow the progress of our libraries, including a new project in Kaneshie, a densely populated community in Accra.

Your support allows us to transform lives through the power of literacy. I join our library staff and members and OCLF’s team of committed volunteers to send you our warmest greetings.

Yours sincerely,

Kathy Knowles

December 2019


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

May 2019


May 2, 2019

Dear Friends,

My April visit to Ghana was full as always.

I spent three days in Goi, a village where we have a community library and an outreach program with seven mini-libraries in neighbouring salt mining and fishing villages. Energetic lay librarians, including a few mothers who participated in our successful 2018 Reading to Babies Campaign, gather children twice-weekly to read books aloud.

The Kablevu librarian was reading to 300 children on the day of my visit. I was delighted to see several eager readers stand up and narrate their favourite books word-for-word.

On April 10th and 11th, the Korle Gonno Community Library organized its third “Act a Book” event. Grade Four students from two nearby government schools acted a play, based on Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story From Africa, for their parents, teachers and peers.

Several students now learning instruments with Musicians Without Borders also performed on stage. Irene Togobo, a librarian with a music background, helps the young aspiring musicians with daily practices.

Literacy students from five libraries came together for a quiz competition at the Nima Centre. Prior to the event all the students studied David’s Day at the Mine, an OCLF publication highlighting one of Ghana’s natural resources.

I met with four people to confirm the correct Twi translation for Mimi’s Purse, a soon-to-be published OCLF book. In January, after trying to accomplish this with different translators and almost giving up, I heard from a principal of a teachers’ college who wrote, “I encourage you to publish it because you will be contributing to children’s literature in local languages and thereby promoting literacy.” 

Librarians from eight libraries are now preparing for OCLF’s 10th annual Library Theatre Festival in August. The theme is Sharing the Joy of Reading Through Theatre Art.

I attended an organizing committee meeting for the International Board for Books for Young People [IBBY] Africa conference in Accra this August. It will be exciting to welcome IBBY members from around the world. OCLF will play a role at the conference with library visits and performances by our young theatre groups at the final dinner gathering.

The City of Accra has changed its jurisdiction, creating many smaller municipalities with each one having its own management team. We did our best to introduce ourselves to newly-appointed officers. Face-to-face meetings go a long way to ensuring healthy, long-term partnerships.

Only a few minutes ago we received news from the Systematic Joy of Reading Award committee in Aarhus, Denmark. Their message read, “We received a total of 28 applications from 10 different countries. It was truly inspiring to read about all the different projects, and we want you to know that it has been very difficult to select the nominees for this award. However, the jury has nominated the following six projects, which yours is among!”

An endorsement from an international jury lends credibility to our efforts. Now I will phone my colleagues in Ghana to inform them of this good news.

I hope this newsletter conveys that your ongoing encouragement and financial support is making a significant difference.

Yours sincerely,

Kathy Knowles

December 2016


December 9, 2016

Dear Friends,

I returned from Ghana just in time for Winnipeg’s first major snowstorm. During my visit I saw countless individuals pass through our library doors. The majority were children who came to read storybooks and listen to story times. I also met adults who attend our literacy classes, students who flock to our study halls, and theatre members who take their rehearsals seriously.

Librarian Joyce Yeboah with a mermaid.

Librarian Joyce Yeboah with a mermaid.

The Mamprobi Gale Community Library held its first Food & Arts Exhibition. The place was decorated with amazing art, including a papier-mâché mermaid. Staff members displayed food and drinks on a hand-beaded “Joy of Reading” tablecloth, and dancers kept the audience entertained for five hours, and this is no exaggeration!

I attended Korle Gonno Community Library’s 4th monthly Visiting Writers Series [VWS] with Ghanaian writer Samelia Bawuah. She read from her novel, invited questions from the audience, and assigned a creative writing activity. Samelia wrote, “The VWS is laudable. It spotlights writers in a way the media doesn’t do in Ghana. Your team is doing wonders for these children … reading, building memories. I can only say Wow!

The Accra College of Education Community Library held its 4th reading competition. This year the organizers included zonals leading up to the final event. Ghanaian students and their teachers adore competitions, and they are proud of their participation in this annual event.

Our first library, built from a 40-foot shipping container, is undergoing a major renovation with a new roof and ceiling and the installation of a tiled floor. Our remarkable carpenter, now 81, continues to inspire me with his ability to take on new jobs. He is now replacing all the window frames, ones he initially installed when the library was first built in 1992.

One poignant moment was meeting past members of the Kathy Knowles Theatre Company from our Nima Learning Centre. They are now in their 30s; some are professional actors while many others are earning an income based on their theatre experience. They are giving a special performance to honour seven members who have tragically passed away. Their statement reads, “These gone souls have contributed to the growth and achievement of the theatre company and still fill the vacuum in our hearts. We shall forever be grateful for their service to mankind.”

Another special moment was meeting Moses, an elderly man who walks with the assistance of a cane. He expressed his gratitude for being able to visit our library every day to read the newspapers, an opportunity he wouldn’t be able to enjoy otherwise.

Vivian reads to a nursery school class.


Vivian Amanor, our librarian at Goi, was thrilled when I invited her to come to Canada in May/June of this year. She is most deserving of this opportunity as she is the most passionate person I know when it comes to books and their transforming power. We are already planning speaking engagements in Ottawa and Winnipeg where she knows several Canadians who have come to Goi to volunteer.

Three weeks ago, Martin Adjei Legend, OCLF’s long-time theatre director, received the thrilling news that he was one of only 30 individual selected for South Africa’s International Cradle of Creativity program next May. This is a significant step for him and our entire theatre outreach.

I returned home to Canada with letters of appreciation from children. Michael, 12, wrote, “I and my friends went to the library to read, but I don’t like reading so they brought me a book to read and the tit(t)le of the book is Jennifer Goes to the Library. I was just looking at the picture(s) of the book. But now I like to read and write stories and draw on my own.” His words convey the importance of luring children into the written word with meaningful books and accessible language.

I join our library staff, library members and volunteers in wishing you our warmest greetings for this season of joy and for peace in the coming New Year.

Yours sincerely,

Kathy Knowles