This is Ginny’s speech at OCLF’s fundraising dinner in Winnipeg, June 2023:
“Hello Everyone! My name is Ginny, and tonight I’ll be talking about my time in Ghana.
My grandmother Minnie has a life outside of Canada. Every year, she spends three months in Ghana, which is in western Africa. She has committed those months of her life since 1990 when she first started a library.
She started with a little library under a tree and it has now expanded into nine library buildings. Her libraries are such a big part of her life and I only knew about this part of her life through her stories. For years, it would just be “Minnie is in Ghana” and I would hear her stories when she returned. But this always left many questions. I only knew this part of her life through pictures in my head.
Don’t get me wrong, stories are powerful, but it is different to experience these things in real life. This is why Minnie hopes to take all of her grandchildren to Ghana when they are around age 10.
I went to Ghana last August for four weeks. I met many people Minnie has talked about for years, saw places I’d heard of, and did some of the work that she commits so much of her life to.
I went to all of Minnie’s libraries. A project we introduced was making a globe. We brought each library an atlas, a geography card game and material so that everyone could make their own paper mache globe. We spoke to the children about the different continents and oceans and we taught them The World Game. This game teaches about countries’ size, capital cities, and flags. They would also get very competitive over the game and added challenges about who could name and memorize the most flags! After that, we made paper mache globes using balloons and paper cut outs of continents. The children painted them and were able to take them home. They enjoyed the art project and learned more about the world.
I also met a lot of Minnie’s friends and made friends of my own. I loved hanging out with Kwame, Minnie’s very funny and friendly driver.
Another person I met was a man named David. He attends literacy classes at the Osu Library. David recognized the amount of garbage in Accra, and he wanted to change this. He came up with the idea of making recycling bins out of water bottles and rebar. He has made about 40 of these bins for a 10 km loop. Every Sunday, he walks the loop with a wheelbarrow to collect the bottles. We joined him one Sunday to see him in action. He said he has noticed a difference in the amount of garbage strewn around and hopes to continue making more. Ghanaians have also recognized his work. Even the President’s wife wanted to meet David to interview him about his project.
Talk about the tedious stuff- bank negotiations, salaries, human resources, staff arguments. I also saw the tedious side of Minnie’s life in Ghana and just seeing how patiently she waited at the bank or how she made sure to always listen to both sides of the story. This confirmed to me that Minnie really loves her libraries and the people who keep them running.
I loved my trip in Ghana and I now can clearly see the places that Minnie talks about in my head. I appreciate the things I have more and loved seeing the libraries make so many people happy.
And that’s why I thank you for coming tonight to support the libraries because so many people depend on the libraries and love them dearly. Many children receive meals there, and the libraries have taught many adults how to read and write.