May 16, 2018

Dear Friends,

Once again, I am writing from Winnipeg after returning last week from a five-week-long visit to Ghana.

OCLF’S exciting new Reading to Babies Campaign took much of my time as it involved  trips to different fishing villages along Ghana’s coast. Vivian Amanor, Goi’s librarian, had already given mothers a copy of My Animal Book, an OCLF-published board book especially designed for babies, in January, and she and her son Enoch had followed up by visiting the mothers in their homes.

A mother from Anyaman told Enoch, “This program has changed our attitude towards our children. I realize that as a mother you have to love books, make good comments about books to your children, and I think it will motivate them to do the same.”  Another from Akplabannya said, “I follow my kids to school thinking that the teacher is the only one who can teach them. After this education, I have started reading to them in the house. I am seeing changes.”

The nurses said that attendance at their clinics has never been so high, and they credit our book campaign for this. We were happy that the news of this campaign received media attention. A reporter from Ghana Television filmed a feature that aired on national TV last week while Obonu TV, a local station, aired another program that included bringing two mothers with their babies to Accra to share their enthusiasm about the project. Vivian’s desire is to follow these same babies until they reach first grade while offering additional support, including more book donations and presentations.

During my stay I took pictures for My Food Book, another board book suggested by the nurses. It will feature healthy locally-available foods such as watermelon, fish, and coconut. This time we will use both English and Dangme in describing the pictures. Manitoba Council for International Cooperation’s matching grant is funding this publication.

I was proud to see Joana Felih, OCLF’s first librarian, honoured at the inaugural Ghana Reads event, as was our Korle Gonno Community Library for their initiative to host a monthly visiting writers’ series. Such recognition makes a huge difference for those who work tirelessly to foster the joy of reading and to bring about positive change.

One challenge for young people in Ghana these days is securing employment, even for university graduates. Our Madina library hosted a Career Day event with an inspiring young female economist who shared her story. She also told the group of high school students that one day she wants to be a wedding planner, a second career. It is important for young people to appreciate the realm of opportunities, including those that are more likely to earn them an income.

Theatre has always been an important outreach at our libraries. Five libraries have formal instruction for children, with two having full stages and audience halls.

Our Nima Centre continues to be busy seven days a week with dance and drama rehearsals. The facility also offers free space to community groups organizing workshops and events. Musicians Without Borders, a German group, teaches stringed instruments, trumpet and guitar, and the Nima Green Movement uses the back of the Centre for a seedling project. Recently we added Keep Fit classes on Saturday mornings.

My days were full with meetings, library visits, and hearing from those who once attended our libraries as children. Ben Ababio, one of our former high school scholarship students, is now working for a successful South African company. He offered to help OCLF with media exposure and networking within Africa.

Talata Abomoi, also a scholarship recipient, has finished her Physician’s Assistant degree and hopes to return to university to complete a full medical degree and then eventually to become a surgeon.  She invited us to her workplace where she was wearing her lab coat and attending to a patient. It doesn’t seem like too long ago when she arrived at the Nima library as a small child anxious to learn to read and with a desire to attend primary school (at that time in Ghana primary education was not free).

All these many developments would not have been possible without the support of our many donors. On behalf of all those who have benefitted from our project, I thank you for your continued interest and support.

Yours sincerely,

Kathy Knowles