December 12, 2019
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