Update: Chamazi Community Library, 2010-01-22
I arrived yesterday afternoon, late enough that the library was winding down and so I took the opportunity to rest after the six and a half hour bus ride from up south. Last night was definitely a sweaty and restless one with not a bit of wind to stir the hot air. I can’t remember dreaming at all but I definitely remember waking up almost every hour to the strange sounds around me.
Even though Chamazi is far from any traffic or other signs of city life, the subtle mysterious sounds are enough to keep you awake. I first fell asleep to the sound of bush babies “cooing” to one another outside my window. A few generous hours later at around 3:00am I was not sure what woke me, but as I rolled over to attempt to fall asleep again I heard a crunching sound coming from somewhere in my room. I had been worried about mice when I hung my backpack full of apples and crackers on the back of the door before going to bed and so I quickly aimed my flashlight towards it.
As I nervously walked towards the bag the crunching stopped and became more of a scratching. Quietly I gave the bottom of the hanging bag a tap and quickly saw something the size of my thumb scamper up the bag and rest on the nail. The movement had frightened me and so as I re-aimed my light my eyes slowly re-focused onto the small creature that got me out of bed. It was a large cockroach. I was shocked by the noise he had been making and so after disposing of him with the bottom of my shoe (may he rest in peace) I carefully unhooked by bag and lay it on the ground in preparation to see more cockroaches emerge.
As I lifted the last apple out of the bottom of my bag I was shocked to realize that all that noise was created by that one pesky cockroach. I was then even more shocked to realize that there was not a single hole in any apples or box of crackers. So you see, my morning, as early as it started, began with violence and confusion. I can tell you that I was very annoyed as I stomped back to bed that one little cockroach could wake me, but at the same time I was relieved to know I did not have to deal with more than that. If it had been a mouse I imagine my screams would have not been as easily stifled.
So here I am now, 13 hours later… 4:30pm.
This morning I met with Jacob who is the Chamazi Community Library’s manager, but not before coming in to see a Canada World Youth volunteer cataloguing the small collection of books I had handed over the night before. I was very pleased to see that he seemed to do it with such ease and confidence. This comforted me to know that Jacob had such a wonderful helper with him in the library. Since the Canada World Youth team arrived in December the volunteers in the library have organized our modest book collection very well on the shelves and entered our inventory list into a computer. Now that we have a digital list of all the books we can confidently tell you that our book collection has reached five hundred and five.
As I sat with Jacob he shared with me that they recently had an open house in October 2009 that attracted over 300 primary and secondary students. This open house had Canada World Youth volunteers helping out at it as well. I was sad to know I had missed it, but happy to know it was such a success! The library was now becoming well known in the surrounding areas from all the exposure of the open house.
I did notice through our conversation that there are some immediate needs that we really must address. First, we simple need a sign stating that we are a Community Library and that we are open to all the public. Jacob reported to me that often community members come by the library out of curiosity as they are passing to ask about the new building. They are always happy and surprised to know that it is a library that they can freely visit. Jacob and I both agree that if we were to simply construct a sign near the road and perhaps one in a more highly trafficked area of the village that many more daily visitors would come.
Secondly, we have yet to see any chairs and tables in the library. Our sources of income are very modest and so we are trying to think of the best immediate solution. We discussed purchasing two plastic tables and eight plastic chairs. That would cost us about $75 USD. Then we could purchase four straw floor mats for about $14 USD. The problem right now is that there is only one chair and one small children’s mat in the library. I CAN say that both are used very much, especially the children’s mat. We have a small collection of blocks and stuffed toys that are very popular among the children. In fact, just this morning I spent half an hour on the mat with one boy from Chamazi, coloring and building with the blocks.
Thirdly, we need to purchase textbooks for primary and secondary students as soon as possible. Textbooks were the most commonly requested book during our open house in October. I am sure that as soon as textbooks are purchase that this library will need to remain open for even hours to accommodate those who study after school hours.
That brings us to our last immediate need which is electricity. We are maybe only one month away from having the city electricity connection to our library! If that happens there will of course be a need to pay for electricity for the library. The new program that we will be using here is “pay as you go” power. Once we have power we can propose the development of our internet café/computer lab, multimedia, and remaining open after sunset.
All in all, the Chamazi Community Library is doing quite well considering its available resources. UVIKIUTA, its operating NGO, is a very trustworthy and organized group of capable people. They are doing a wonderful job of taking care of the library and the community it serves.