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Welcome to Antoinette!

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We're welcoming a second PCV to the FAVL Burkina team. Antoinette Yost will be working in Houndé. Some of the projects that she will be working on include: planning and facilitating Burkina's summer reading camps; creating and distributing a resource manual for the librarians with information and activities on topics such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, gender and hygiene; and working closely with Dounko and the librarians to improve the libraries in the Houndé area. We're excited to have her on the team. Here's a short interview with her:

[in original French below]

DSCN7983.JPGBereba library is a place where students who abandoned their studies come seeking knowledge for success in examinations for jobs.  We met on Thursday, May 3, 2012 a young man Jean Gnama and his testimony is here.

My name is Jean Gnama I'm from the rural commune of Bereba and my village is 17km from Bereba where the library is located. I knew the library when I was in high school the 6th grade of Tuy provincial school 25km from Bereba. My older brother who attended the high school of Bereba told me about this library and advised to come to subscribe to instruct myself, because we did not in Houndé have a library as rich as that of Bereba. When I went for the first time I was really happy with what I could now use to increase my knowledge. I subscribed for 150f for a full year. Since then I frequent the library. At present I pursue my studies no further due to lack of financial means, but I continue to attend to not forget what I learned and I find it also as a place of research and preparation of my competition. Many of my comrades were successful in competitions for public service and I am sure I will succeed with it. This is the only place for us to grow and prepare our future. I thank the donors who are concerned about our future through the library. This is a nice gesture on their part and I encourage them to support us. The managers also do a good job. Congratulations to FAVL and I wish them good luck.

La bibliothèque de Béréba est un lieu ou des élèves ayant abandonnés leurs études viennent chercher le savoir pour la réussite aux concours. Nous avons rencontré le jeudi 03 mai 2012 Gnama Jean voici son témoignage.

Je m'appelle Gnama Jean je suis de la commune rurale de Béréba et mon village est à 17km de Béréba ou se trouve la bibliothèque. J'ai connu la bibliothèque quand je faisais la 6eme au lycée provincial du Tuy à 25km de Béréba. C'est mon  grand frère qui fréquentait au CEG de Béréba qui m'a parlé de cette bibliothèque et ma conseillé de venir m'abonner pour m'instruire, car à Houndé nous n'avions pas de bibliothèque aussi riche que celle de Béréba. Quand je suis passé pour la première fois j'étais vraiment content par ce que je pouvais désormais  accroitre mes connaissances. Je me suis abonné à 150f pour toute une année complète. Depuis lors je la fréquente. A l'heure actuelle je ne poursuis plus mes études par manque de moyens financiers, mais je continue de la fréquenter pour ne pas oublier ce que j'ai appris et aussi je la trouve comme un endroit de recherche et de préparation de mes concours. Beaucoup de mes camarades ont réussis aux concours de fonction publique et je suis certain qu'avec elle je réussirai.  C'est le seul endroit pour nous de nous cultiver et préparer notre avenir. Je remercie les donateurs qui sont soucieux de notre avenir grâce à la bibliothèque. C'est un beau geste de leur part et je les encourage à nous soutenir. Les gérants font aussi du bon travail. Toutes mes félicitations à FAVL et je leur souhaite bon vent.

FAVL promotes much more than reading

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FAVL 's first mission is to promote reading and increase literacy, but the village libraries accomplish much more than that.  They promote local culture and languages, support health education and hygiene,  encourage sustainability, and offer workshops and activities to empower women.  Here are just a few examples of activities that took place during the last few months

  • Day of Stories  In March, the village library of Dohoun (Burkina Faso) organized a day of stories in local languages (Bwamu and Mooré). 150 primary school students participated in the event which featured dynamic storytellers from the surrounding villages. Among the stories most enjoyed by the crowd:   A Monkey and an Old Woman and The Toad and the Fly. 
  • Latrine and Hygiene Training  In February, two FAVL staff members attended a training about Hygiene, Sanitation, and Latrine Construction offered by the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso. At the completion of the training, they received materials and money to build a new latrine.  They decided to build it at the library in Bereba and to use it as a model for the community for how a latrine should be properly maintained and used.  Their first priority will be to train the librarians so that they will be able to hold regular activities about hygiene and latrine usage in the FAVL villages.
  • The Benefits of the Moringa Plant  This past year the libraries in Dimikuy, Boni, Bereba, Boni, and Dohoun (Burkina Faso), began offering workshops on the benefits of the Moringa , a plant rich in vitamins, proteins, and minerals.  Two local volunteers created a 40-page educational  booklet on the benefits of the Moringa plant in both English and Bwamu, the  local language.  It will be published by FAVL in the coming month.
  • How to  Make an Anti-Mosquito Cream  In Boni, librarian Jonas Gnoumou  taught his FAVL colleagues how to make an anti-mosquito cream, a skill he learned from a Peace Corps volunteer during the previous summer reading camps.  The cream is made from the leaves of the Neem tree, hard soap and shea butter. It's not expensive and can be used over a long period of time. The session allowed the other librarians to see how certain products can be made using local products.  They will integrate this activity in future library programming
  • Health Literacy Classes in Ghana  FAVL volunteer Brianna Osetinsky  has developed a health literacy program for adults in Ghana.  Students improve their reading skills in English as they learn about malaria prevention, nutrition, and other health issues.

Busy, busy, busy

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I'd like to apologize to all you FAVL fans out there for my lack of blog updates lately. I know you're on the edges of your seats waiting to hear what's going on here in good ole Ouagadougou.

Dounko and I have been pretty busy lately. The FAVL team just finished up a round of evaluations for the LED research, and we've working hard to enter all the data into the computer. The responses are really interesting, and you have to chuckle when a kid tells you that one of his evening tasks is eating and it's difficult. We hope to be done with this by the end of the week!

We've also been making the rounds in Ouaga FINALLY dropping off the letter to ask for financial help for the reading camps. So far, we have a few positive "we're interested and we'll see what we can do"s. We're going to work to make sure they become "we'd love to help out your camps because it's an awesome project"s! We got a very positive response from a representative of the American Embassy in Ouagadougou, so keep your fingers crossed!

I will be leaving for Ghana on Monday to visit our 3 libraries there. I'll be doing a training with another PCV from Burkina and Brianna about how to sustain Brianna's health literacy class after her departure in a couple of weeks. Kerry and I will also be débuing our new health book for primary school students, Mary Loses Her Teeth. It's the riveting tale of a young girl who learns about oral hygiene from her father, and when she doesn't follow his advice, learns firsthand what can happen when you don't take care of your teeth. The French version, Fatou Perde Ses Dents, will be available in Burkina upon our return. Looking forward to a few days in *knock on wood* the cooler temperatures of a country already in the midst of rainy season!

In the meantime, enjoy an image from the LED Evaluations:


Reading Camp Update

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Le travail sur les camps de lecture avance. Voici les nouvelles:

Le Corps de la Paix a donné permission d'utiliser la salle au bureau pour la formation des volontaires. La date de la formation est le 23 juin. Pendant la semaine, je vais envoyer un mail pour voir le nombre des volontaires qui sont intéressés a participer aux camps.

Regina et moi, on va rencontrer un représentant de l'ambassade d'Amérique pour demander les fonds. L'ambassade donne les petits bourses aux projets au Burkina, et on va discuter si FAVL peut être un récipient des fonds. Le rencontre est à 17h30 demain.

Dounko et moi, on va commencer à déposer les lettres de demandes de soutien demain.

On a passé a DIACFA and Mercury (une autre libraire à Ouaga) et on a choisi deux livres pour les camps. Bouba et Zaza Protègent La Terre (à 1.800 FCFA per copie; 45.000 FCFA en total) et Le Rêve d'Amina par Fatou N'Diaye Sow et Moustapha N'Diaye, l'histoire d'une petite fille qui veut aller à l'école (à 2.900 par copie et 36.250 en total). La dernier, on doit commander les copies et ça va venir dans 3 semaines. On a décidé que 25 copies chacun est bon.

On va voir si on peut joindre un bande-dessiné Kouka comme c'est juste 100 FCFA par copie.

April Librarian Meeting

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On Thursday, April 19, the monthly librarian meeting for the month of March took place in Houndé. (It had been delayed due to LED research evaluations and preparation for the Monique's departure.)

Here was what we talked about:

1. Summary of the latrine and hygiene training in Baskouré
2. LED research
3. Discussion and distribution of Echo Library Newsletter and Annual Report 2011
4. Reminder to librarians to recuperate late books
5. Miscellaneous
    a. Introduction of Antoinette - a Peace Corps volunteer who will be working with FAVL in     Houndé
    b. Departure of Monique
    c. World Malaria Day (April 25)

During the summary of the latrine and hygiene training, Dounko gave a demonstration of how to contruct a handwashing station. The librarians all took turns using the station (Dounko showed them that they should turn off the "faucet" with an elbow so that they didn't recontaminate their hands after washing them.). An old woman who lives in the courtyard saw our demonstration and was interested. So Donkoui showed her how to use the handwashing station, and then she used it herself. It was a nice little demonstration of our skills, and when Donkoui gets a handwashing station for his courtyard, hopefully she will use it too! We encouraged all of the librarians to construct the stations (which are very inexpensive) at their libraries and their homes. We also asked the librarians to come up with a schedule of activities for presenting the information they learned about hygiene at their libraries. 




Community library association in Tanzania....

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I thought this email exchange should be shared with everyone interested supporting community libraries in Tanzania!  Contact the interested parties...

A.K. Hassan

Sarah Switzer-Dogra

Rahim Niah'"

Dear Rahim

I have come across this email from Sarah, which has reminded me of the meeting with one official from EIFL an organization interested in supporting community and public libraries in EA.

It has provided grants (competitive) in Uganda and Kenya. In Tanzania we have not yet benefited from this (Public libraries through TLSB are in process) because of the absence of the body that unites this type of libraries. I talked to the official and promised as chairperson of Tanzania Library Association - to find the way to meet and see the way forward for community libraries in Tanzania.

I am therefore writing this email to propose a formal meeting between representative of community libraries in Tanzania and The Executive Committee of Tanzania Library Association to see how we can jointly assist to develop community libraries development in Tanzania and the profession in general. If you accept the idea of having a meeting, can you suggest a date and venue for the meeting?

With kind regards

A.K. Hassan


From: Sarah Switzer []
Sent: Thursday, March 15, 2012 4:29 PM
To: A.K. Hassan
Cc: Rahim Niah

Hello Hassan!

It is great to hear from you as well!  I am CC'ing this email to the TaCLA coordinator.  He can put you in touch with the rest of the board members as well!

Rahim, Hassan and I talked about the need for a TaCLA many years ago and he gave MANY good advices.  Please communicate well with him :)  He has previously worked with the public libraries of Tanzania and has experience with the Tanzania Library Association.

Rahim, keep me up to date on TaCLA activities.  Do you have any plans for a workshop for your members this year?  Any more support from Book Aid for such a workshop?  Does the association have their association status yet?

I hope some for some good news!


Sarah Switzer-Dogra

Nice letter from new FAVL librarian in Ghana

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I forgot to post this last December... I think it is sweet.  Welcome Simon to the FAVL team!

proud winner.JPG

Learning to read, one adult at a time...

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From FAVL volunteer Brianna Osetinsky, in Ghana:

A few Saturdays ago there was a perfect storm for poor attendance to the health literacy class in Sumbrungu library: it was market day, there were two important funerals, and also it was the Saturday before Palm Sunday,
When class time rolled around, there was only one student present. When 10 minutes had passed, there was still only one student present. I decided to swallow my annoyance at the other students, and focus on making it the best private tutoring session for the one dedicated student Beatrice, who has never missed a class.

I grew up surrounded by books, and some of my favorite childhood memories of my father come from us reading together, despite his penchant for picking age inappropriate books (reading your seven year old The Pearl pretty much guarantees she will grow up with a stark view of human nature and greed). However, for people who didn't have that exposure to reading, books are somewhat of a foreign object no matter how much we encouraged the students to use the library to practice reading. I decided in this private lesson Beatrice and I would read a book together, since reading with someone else can be very pleasant and educational, and it can break down the distance between the new reader and the world of books.

I picked one of the books from the Reading West Africa Program, What Work Do You Do? by Brian Lance. This book was fantastic for Beatrice, who has only recently mastered her letters and sounds, and has been working on sounding out and identifying words. The sentences were formulaic so she could start seeing patterns, and the pictures were both accurate and interesting to help her identify and understand the larger words like butcher or mechanic

The first several pages I would read the sentence, explain it to her, and then she would repeat it. After several pages of correcting herself as she repeated the sentences, Beatrice correctly read a new sentence all by herself. With my help she stumbled through the rest of the book, and at the end I don't know who was more proud between the two of us. My favorite teachers have told me about the intrinsic rewards of teaching, and I have volunteered and tutored in the past, but I was still unprepared for the amount of pride and happiness I felt in my student finishing a book and being able to read sentences on her own.

Now literacy doesn't come in a day, not even during a one-on-one reading session, but that moment when Beatrice realized that she was capable of reading sentences on her own and of finishing a book will help carry her through the frustrations that come with learning to read, especially as an adult. It also reminded me, like a saccharine after school special, that even in the failure of having most of my students miss class, I could find a lot of joy and merit in my work.


Books, reading, and libraries relevant to Africa by Michael Kevane, co-Director of FAVL and economist at Santa Clara University.

Other contributors include Kate Parry, FAVL-East Africa director, FAVL Burkina Faso representative Koura Donkoui, FAVL Burkina Faso program manager Krystle Nanema, and FAVL friends Emilie Crofton and Elisee Sare.

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