Recently in Volunteers & Partners Category

Thanks to three local library supporters in Ghana

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Ayinibisah Ayelah, originally from Sumbrungu and now in the U.S., donated nine copies of his book, Sumbrungu: Survival at all Costs.  Boniface Adambolga, an electrical contractor, hooked up Sherigu library to the electricity grid free of charge.  Fially, the Ghana Library Board donated 227 books in May 2011 to the Sumbrungu Community Library. 

We love seeing local support for the libraries.  Thank you!

Daily grind at FAVL, but in a good way

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Last night FAVL Treasurer and I, and our friend Martine Sinkondo, put "sealing dots" on 1150 newsletters.  Nothing like 3 hours of transparent sealing dots on your fingers... wasn't there a Beatles song about that? You feel good when it's over.  Deb took the newsletters to Post Office, so you, dear FAVL reader, should have a copy soon.  Read it and share, and please donate to help us continue our activities.

Read-a-thon in Pennsylvania to benefit FAVL!

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Sena Agawu and Emily Costello, two high school students, organized read-a-thons to benefit FAVL.  here's their summary of their work.  Thanks Sena and Emily!!!!

Sena.JPGFor our senior project, we took our love of reading, and the suggestion from the FAVL website, and held a read-a-thon in a local elementary school for six 3rd and 4th grade classrooms. It was a long and complex process simply to prepare to present in the classes. We needed permission from the superintendent of the State College, Pennsylvania school district, from the principal of Radio Park Elementary, and from the individual teachers themselves. We attended many meetings and conferences, during which we were required to present the ideas and goals of our project. We also wrote countless emails to the principal, librarian, and six teachers we were working with. Two instrumental figures in our project were our mothers and our English teacher, Mr. Goldfine, who was also our project advisor.

Throughout this process, we learned many necessary tools to help us organize fundraisers in the future, and we learned exactly how much work goes into an involved project such as this one.

Presenting in the classrooms was the highlight of our project and went better than we could have hoped. It was uplifting to see how excited the kids were about reading, and helping kids their own age in Africa have access to books. Our presentation coincided with their Africa unit in school, which gave them a better understanding of where the money they raised was going. We gave them handouts downloaded from the FAVL website to record the books they read, as well as sign up sheets for their sponsors' use. The teachers themselves were very supportive and we could not have succeeded without their help. On the last day of the read-a-thon, we fried plantains and made Kelewele, a native dish of Ghana, for the kids and teachers to enjoy. We praised the children who participated for their hard work, and collected the money, over 700 dollars!

Overall, it was a very rewarding and successful senior project, and we were glad we could share our love of reading with kids in our own school district, as well as across the ocean in Africa!

Thank you Santa Clara University Library and community!

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FAVL board member Helene Lafrance writes:

On May 4th,  Santa Clara University's Library held its annual book sale, a popular event attended by hundreds of students, faculty and staff.  This year the library is donating half of the proceeds to FAVL.  The idea of using the book sale as a fundraiser came from a group of library staff who are committed to social justice and have been collaborating with FAVL on other projects. The University Librarian, Liz Salzer, was very supportive and agreed to the donation. The book sale, coordinated by library specialist Matthew Lipson, was a success and raised $1,047 for FAVL.  In recent years the University Library has supported FAVL in other ways,  providing space for projects and meetings, organizing an exhibit on the Reading West Africa study abroad program, and providing support for the FAVL photo-book project.
Below: Michael Kevane receiving check from University Librarian Liz Salzer.


More great blog entries from Laura and Lauren in Ghana... most recent about their trip to Burkina

We also got our Western food fixes by eating pizza, a club sandwich, and fries at a nice restaurant called Paradisio. Afterwards, the power miraculously turned back on just in time for my favorite activity of the entire week: catching a Burkinabe flick at an outdoor cinema (see Charley's FAVL blog post about the movie). Nothing could beat this quirky ambience. In the parking lot, people were selling bananas and mangoes presumably for movie snacks. The comfortingly familiar Big Dipper was clearly visible, hanging upside down directly above the screen. Occasionally, a HUGE airplane from the very very nearby international airport would pass right behind the screen. The evening temperature was enjoyably cool while the metal chairs were unbearably hard and uncomfortable. All this for the low low price of about $1! Bonus: I think I understood most of the French/the movie.

If you are still reading this, you are a trooper. I'm about to launch into some long-winded stuff on cultural differences, so go grab some snacks.

To provide some background (or at least my basic understanding of it) on the aforementioned "interesting conversation": there were"interesting" things going on at the national level for Burkina while we were there. First, there had been student demonstrations that turned a bit violent in the weeks leading up to our visit. The students were upset about another senior high student who died in jail, allegedly due to mistreatment. We actually headed to Bereba village really early Saturday morning to avoid a planned student demonstration near the FAVL office in Ouaga (but this one was pretty subdued). Second, military personnel in Ouaga were unhappy about a comrade being jailed, so they decided to riot (meaning, shoot guns in the air and loot stores) the night before we returned from Bereba. Third, the following day merchants were demonstrating in protest of the looting from the previous night. *NOTE: we ourselves never actually witnessed these things, but were given great updates from FAVL/Peace Corps and felt very safe our entire trip.* Fourth, set this against the backdrop of the uprisings in North Africa this past month. President du Faso Blaise Compaoré has been in power for the last 30 years via a combination of coups and elections...sound a bit familiar? Throw in the fact that historically Burkina has close ties with Libya. Compaoré and Colonel Gaddafi are close friends.

We had the opportunity to visit the 7 FAVL village libraries in Burkina Faso this past week. Our general impression of the Burkina libraries was overwhelmingly positive. Each librarian diligently showed us every book section and cahier (record book). We were particularly impressed by the high level of organization at the libraries, with a cahier for subscribers, lost or damaged books, checked out books, and detailed notes on activities. In contrast to the frustrating task of locating the correct inventory in libraries in Ghana (and knowing or rather NOT knowing which books were checked out/removed for damage, etc), this was a pleasant surprise and something to aspire to.

The librarians all seemed very proud of their libraries and the spaces were very neat and orderly at the time we visited

Additionally, the decorations in each library were fantastic, particularly in Koumbia with the paintings from a local artist and large masks. There were also abundant homemade decorations that Dounko taught us how to make. Hopefully we can make some of these with the kids in Ghana when we return.

As for library activities, we had the opportunity to take part in and listen to a few. The children really seemed to like the contes we heard from both the librarians and Dounko at Karaba and Dimikuy. Dounko is super animated in storytelling, and he should keep it up. It was great to see how much the kids loved him. We liked that Burkina has an "animateur"/activities coordinator whose sole responsibility is to run activities at the libraries. A big personality like Dounko's seems to be a good way to attract children to the library. The librarians themselves were a bit less animated in their story telling, but still elicited a good reaction from the kids. We also enjoyed hearing the riddles or "devinettes" and seeing games such as alphabet hopscotch (hop on a letter and say a word that starts with that letter). At Boni and Dimikuy, we were able to teach the children and librarians the Hokey Pokey (or "Hougie Bougie") en Francais! They seemed to like it a lot.

We were very impressed with the reading level and comprehension of the students present at Douhoun library's activities. They seemed well beyond anything we've encountered for that age group in Ghana (CM1 or 2 level). However upon further reflection and conversations with Charley, this has not been experienced by other visitors to the libraries. It was a very small group of students, and we're not sure how anomalous this was but we were surely impressed.

The libraries in Burkina Faso were open about 20 hrs per week and often had two librarians or assistants sharing the responsibility. This is very different from the system in Ghana, but it appears to work well for the libraries in Burkina. It is clear they are able to accomplish a lot even with this small amount of time.

There was a large ratio of adult to children's books at the libraries. Again, in contrast, the opposite tends to be true in the Ghanaian libraries. We imagine there may be less French children's material available in general?

Laure and Lauren, FAVL volunteers in Ghana

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They are having a great time, and lots of pix are at their blog.  But they're also doing interesting reading programming at the Sumbrungu library.

We've been thinking about a lot of new ideas for activities to do with various age groups that will be different from the reading strategies taught in the summer camps.  We're looking to organize two-week after school mini-camps with 4th-graders that will focus on the mechanics of reading words (phonics, pronunciation, syllables, etc) so that they will have a solid foundation for learning the comprehension skills that come later.  We do have a lot of constraints that we need to work around in organizing these camps though - for example, our number one priority right now is doing inventory at all three libraries, a process which takes 2-3 days per library.  We also need to renew our visas before the end of the month, so we are planning a trip to Burkina Faso for the 3rd week in March to visit some of the libraries there.  So right now, we are looking to start up three evening programs with 5th graders, 6th graders, and 7th graders, respectively.  We hope to combine reading activities, word games and puzzles, arts and crafts, phonics, creative thinking activities, and writing in these classes.  We have so many ideas and not nearly enough time to do them all!  We also need to figure out a way to recruit students for these activities - we were originally planning to visit the schools and talk to the headmasters and teachers, but it seems the teachers will be staging a protest on Tuesday, and it remains to be seen whether they will commit to a long-term strike over wages, benefits, etc.  I'm having flashbacks to my time volunteering in Santiago, when I showed up for three weeks to volunteer at a high school, only to find the students and/or teachers on strike.

Analysis of Mines by Susan Straight

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So here's the deal.  Straight's excellent story captures the tensions inherent in borderline-middle class but marginalized low-education life in America today.  If your teacher assigned this story, and you are a high school or college student doing analysis, I have a hint for you.  Because your teacher assigned the story, she or he is going to *love* that you read about FAVL, and want to do something so that kids in African villages can read "Mines" too.  Didn't you like the story?  Could you imagine never reading anything like it?  Hard to imagine.  So let your teacher know about FAVL. Click on the Home link and read more.  Look at some of the pictures.  How about daydreaming about going to Africa yourself and spending time in a village library?  You can do it if you really want to!

OK here's the real deal: The theme of Mines is how tenuous life can be on the outside, from an objective point of view.  But the underneath that tenuousness, inside it, in the heart, lies a rich commentary, a detailed and sharp monologue, a fine intelligence.  By the end of the story, a prison guard is our friend for life, because we appreciate how she retains her humanity, her dignity, through her struggles.

From FAVL volunteers in Ghana

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We're both doing very well, adjusting to life in Sumbrungu and working on our Frafra. We have already set dates for doing inventory at all of the libraries and initiated the book club with the librarians for "Wife of the Gods".

We've also been working with Darius running a "minicamp" for about 1-2 hrs in the evening for new 5th grade students (about 28 of them). The first day we arrived Darius said he wanted to do this and had already spoken to the schools and received a list of students. This is 3 times a week, for just these next 2 weeks to start. We're doing sort of a condensed version of the reading strategy materials that Francesca and Nico worked on this summer. Laura and I are both extremely impressed by all the hard work they did. The booklets are a great resource for
the libraries and the librarians.

We've also met Bernard and Jennifer, and went on our first bike ride to go visit Sherigu library today in its new space. There's a lot of potential for the new space, great big walls to paint things on!


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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