George leading a reading activity

Making a difference in Mathare slum

16th May 2017 | Blog

At Book Aid International, we are privileged to partner with libraries of many types and librarians from all walks of life.

These partners use books in settings ranging from established national library networks to rural community libraries to NGO run libraries in slum communities. George Wambugu is a librarian for the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) in Nairobi, Kenya. He manages the group’s four libraries in the Mathare slum.  

We spoke to him about his own history, how a difficult start motivates him today and what being a librarian means to him:


George reading with children


I was brought up in a slum by my mum after the death of our dad in 1990. Putting a meal on the table was a big battle that we had to fight daily. Growing up in a family of ten with no one to rely on apart from our mum gave us strength as we saw her working harder every day.

School fees, uniforms and books were some of the things that I never even wanted to hear anyone mention as they left me thinking about whether I would be at school or on the street. Sometimes we also spent lots of hours and days away from school just hunting to feed ourselves.


Mathare slum
A typical street in Mathare


Then in 1997 I got the chance to work in MYSA. MYSA offers room for empowerment to many youth living in Mathare slum through sports programs as well as other community development programs, like photography, libraries, music, art and education, to name but a few.

In 2003, I became a library attendant. With different opportunities coming my way I grew bigger and better and became who I am today. I am now able to speak, encourage, support and offer guidance to many, especially those from less fortunate backgrounds.


Excited readers in MYSA library
Two very excited readers in a library George manages


I am proud to work in MYSA’s slum libraries. The presence of the MYSA community libraries creates havens for children and young people, offering them an alternative to idling on the street where they are vulnerable.

We have many high quality books donated by Book Aid International that meet the needs of a high number of users and soon we will even have Children’s Corners in two of our libraries. This project will create a transformation in our libraries and will help us to focus our work in order to make them even more welcoming and engaging for children.

I enjoy every moment when I give hope to children and young people who I come across. Being in charge of the libraries in MYSA gives me so much happiness.

If you receive books from Book Aid International and are inspired by a librarian or volunteer, we would love to hear from you. Please get in touch and tell us about them.

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