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