Using books to build a brighter future
Jean Marie Habimana lives in Rwinkwavu in Eastern Rwanda. It is a rural area and most people make a small living from agriculture. Parents in Rwinkwavu want more for their children but often the local schools are under-resourced and children have very few books and learning materials to support their education.
For a long time, young people in Rwinkwavu had very few choices. But thanks to the Rwinkwavu Community Library and Learning Centre where Jean Marie works, things are changing.
Here, he tells us more:
Our organisation, Ready for Reading, was founded to ‘fight poverty of the mind and spirit’. We built the Rwinkwavu Community Library and Learning Centre to give local people the chance to access books and work to create a culture of reading in this remote rural area.
Our aim is to get the whole community reading and enjoying books, from the very youngest children to their parents and grandparents. We run so many programmes here – story telling, sports activities, music and dance classes. Secondary school pupils come here to study at weekends. Even children who have finished school or who have dropped out come here to keep learning.
We are running adult education classes too. Adults are learning to read later in life and learning about subjects like family planning and running small businesses. People are very happy to live in Rwinkwavu and nearby. They know the library is here to help their children with their education.
It wasn’t always like this. After the genocide in 1994, Rwinkwavu was empty. Many, many people were killed and everybody else fled. But then a hospital opened here and now we have the library too. Many people have come back – not only local people, but people are coming from far away because they know their children will have access to more opportunities.
Before the genocide, education was very bad. A lot of education focused on dividing people of different tribes, not giving opportunities to everyone, which was one of the things that led to the genocide. Afterwards, we had to learn to be united, to be just Rwandan together. Now our education is emphasising peace and reconciliation to make Rwanda feel like one people, not to feel like we are different. Reading is one way to help us shape our future.
We’re still working against many challenges. Books are very expensive, especially books for higher learning, for research. Lots of schools can’t afford to buy books, or have their own library. Even the books we have, I would say that a lot of them are old.
When we heard Book Aid International was going to donate books to us, our readers were so excited to have the chance to read and find new information on all sorts of topics. We are hoping the donation from Book Aid International will bring in new people who will want to read the books.
It’s important to have books in English. Our mother tongue is Kinyarwanda, but from Primary 4 school is taught in English, so it’s important for our young people to have English books to read. We are hoping for books that will be not just for children but also adults, doctors and nurses in the hospital here, researchers and teachers. The books will help them work on their projects, on their research.
I believe through books, reading and learning together, there is a bright future for our children. They will read for pleasure, grow their minds and learn new skills, and they will dream big dreams. I also believe that through reading they will know the truth about our culture, how we are one people and how we will shape our future together.
All of this will not happen as a miracle – we need everyone to be a part of it to make it work. You can be part of Rwanda’s future too, through your support of Book Aid International. So I would like to say thank you. Your support means a lot to us here in Rwinkwavu.
Thanks to our generous donors, we sent 30,000 books to Rwanda in 2017. In 2018, we hope to send even more books to people who would otherwise have few books, or even no books at all.
Every £2 you give could send another book to a library like Jean Marie’s.
If you have any questions – or would prefer to donate offline – please don’t hesitate to contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 020 7733 3577.
Find out more about our work in Rwanda using the links below.