Opening Doors for children in Zimbabwe
Last week our Head of Communications, Jessica Faulkner, travelled to Zimbabwe to attend the launch of our first Open Doors Children’s Corner there. Here, she reports on her trip and the librarians that made this exciting new chapter a reality.
This was my first trip to Zimbabwe and I was really excited to witness the launch of our very first Open Doors Children’s Corner here. We have supported libraries in Zimbabwe with books for over 40 years but this is the first project we’ve run in the country. Together with our partners in Zimbabwe, we are opening five Children’s Corners in public libraries in Bulawayo and two in Harare – bright and colourful spaces where children can read play and learn freely. The first of these to open was Nketa library in a high-density suburb of Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo. Nketa was also to be the location for the official launch of the programme in Zimbabwe.
The day before the launch I travelled to Nketa library to see how preparations were going and I was delighted to find the space busy with librarians and friends of the library who were applying the final touches to the new Children’s Corner. The space is bright and airy and has now been decorated with paintings from children’s stories, traditional African art and inspiring quotes to encourage reading. The shelves are packed with 2,500 brand new books from the UK as well as locally published books in local language Ndebele for which the project provided funding. There are cushions and mats on the floor so that children feel comfortable when reading and they know the space is their own. The librarians have all attended training in engaging young readers and running a great children’s library. The training was facilitated by expert trainer Vivienne Moyo who attended our ‘train the trainers’ session in Kenya last year.
There are five libraries in Bulawayo which will soon be opening the doors of their new Children’s Corners. What was really encouraging was that all the librarians from these libraries were at Nketa, helping to get the space ready for the launch. And this week, all those librarians will be moving from library to library to get the remaining four Children’s Corners open as well – a real team effort!
On the day of the launch we gathered in a marquee outside the library. His Worship the Mayor of Bulawayo was in attendance, as was the Acting Town Clerk. We all made speeches and even read extracts from a children’s book to remind everyone of why we were there – because books really can change lives. There was poetry, dancing and drama and then we cut the ribbon of the Children’s Corner and declare it officially open. It was almost immediately filled with children who couldn’t wait to get their hands on the new books!
Over the next few days I managed to see the remaining four libraries in Bulawayo which will shortly be opening their Children’s Corners – Nkulumane, Tshabalala, Njube and Pumula. It was really exciting to see these Children’s Corners in different stages of development and to know that soon, they’ll be full of eager children who have access to a wide selection of appealing, age-appropriate books.
Just before I left Zimbabwe, I was pleased to pick up a signed agreement from the City of Harare, which means we can now begin work on a further two Children’s Corners in the capital Harare. These libraries are also in high-density suburbs, meaning they can reach a large number of children and provide a space which is truly theirs.
This is a really exciting chapter for children in Zimbabwe. The young readers I saw using the Children’s Corners in Nketa and Njube were so excited by the new books – it’s clear there’s a real hunger to read and these new spaces will make all the difference in enabling a generation to discover the joy of reading.
We look forward to bringing updates of how the Children’s Corners in Zimbabwe are progressing. Our Open Doors Children’s Corners programme in Zimbabwe is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.