Gusoma Kumwe – Library Update
Well, things have been going great with the library. I want to continue to congratulate all our friends, family, and blog readers who contributed money to help get books sent here to our village.
These past few weekends, our library ‘club’ on Sunday’s has steadily increased. And this week has been extra special. We got together on Sunday as we have been. But then, Monday was a holiday (Rwandan 50th Anniversary of Independence from Belgium) so we again gathered to read together. Then. . . .Wednesday was also a holiday (Liberation Day when Genocide was officially stopped in 1994) so we again gathered to read. Each time we get together, it is for a solid 3 hours in the afternoon. This is enough time for them to keep interest and not get too distracted. Our numbers of readers has grown from 8 the first week, to 14, then to 31, then to 32, and yesterday 25.
It has been wonderful. the students gather and squeeze onto the few chairs that we have and others squeeze onto long benches to read. I spread out dictionaries on the table and encourage then to not only ask me the words they do not know, but to find them in the dictionary themselves and learn how to learn new vocabulary alone. Despite this, I still walk around for the 3 hours they are there and help them with vocabulary and give them definitions in words that I know they understand. The students have gotten very into the stories. They enjoy reading the stories and being able to follow along with the pictures in the book. Others are amazed. . . .literally amazed.. . .by one particular book that is for babies that plays music when you press a button to go along with the story. We hear these few songs at least 20 times every weekend. I am very close to hiding the batteries from the book! I introduced the Guinness Book of World Records to them (one of my personal favorites) and they have been awed by that as well.
Some things that have been hard to explain to the students are mermaids (why do we have this folk-lore anyway), dragons, magic, witches, fairies, the tooth-fairy, Santa Claus, and a group of naked white people (in a Guinness Book of World Records) that the students thought were pigs because of the similarity of skin color. Some of these folk-lore / fairytale icons that we learn from the earliest of ages in America are so difficult to explain. I wish everyone could try to have this experience of trying to explain what a mermaid is or why we even have that in our culture. All the while, it has been awesome for Carina and I to walk around and read some of these books and reminisce about all the books that we know from our childhood. My favorites are Curious George, the Bernstein Bears, and Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Carina has also created an ‘incentive’ program for the kids. We are creating index cards for all the students as they come. Then, for every hour they come to read, we give them a sticker on their index card. After 20 hours, we will give them a prize. Then, after another 20 hours, we will give them a higher prize. Then, after 30 hours, we will give them the gold prize. We don’t quite know what these prizes are just yet, but we will come up with something. This has really inspired them. This past library time we had, of the 31 students that came, 25 of them stayed for the entire 3 hours. We even had students arrive early before us. This is unheard of in Rwanda, to be early to something. It’s a true Christmas miracle (only in July).
Next steps, we will continue to open the library to students under our supervision when we are able. The organization that has sponsored this building of the library is going to hire a person to work here.. This was originally going to be done last December (yeah right were my exact words at that time). Now, they are saying middle of July but I am thinking more of early September. They still have to post the position, interview, and hire a person. The computers are there in the library but without an internet connection yet. In the future, they want to buy a printer, copier, and scanner. The long-term goal, is for this to float between a library, resource center, training center, copy center, and small business development center.
We will keep our fingers crossed in hopes that this project will continue on without any severe setback of delays. We are really hoping that the Peace Corps will replace us when we leave in December of this year. So if any future Rwandan education program PCVs are reading this blog, keep your fingers crossed that you get sent to our village. . . .because it is awesome!!
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
- Charles W. Eliot