From volunteer to inspiring librarian
Like many volunteers and staff in community-run libraries, Wilson at the Mathare Youth Sports Association’s library in the Githurai slum in Nairobi, Kenya, is passionate about his work but has little training in library management or working with children.
We chatted to Wilson to find out more about his work and how the training he took part in as part of our Book Havens project is helping him support children in his community.
How did you get involved with the library and with the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA)?
When I was eight years, we came to Githurai [slum]. I started volunteering when I was nine years, playing football with MYSA and doing clean up like garbage collection within the community. When the [library] was started, I was one of them planting the grass and flowers there. Then in 2009 I was selected to join the library. I started as a volunteer, now I am employed in the library.
When this library came, it was like breaking news! We had a lot of kids coming.
Why do you think the library was so popular with local children?
Getting a good education is very difficult for them because of the drugs in the community. The parents in the slum don’t usually take care of their kids’ studies because they just go and use the drugs. In the afternoon they forget they have kids because they are high.
Nowadays the community is different than before. Before, our parents took care of each other’s kids but nowadays they don’t even take care of their own kids.
Many of the kids coming [to the library] were from the [football] field because I am one of the coaches. So I was just helping them to read some story books, maybe some picture books. We were just doing basic things in the library. We didn’t have any knowledge about the library, any education on how to use the library.
So how has the training you participated in as part of the Book Havens project helped you to support the children better?
The training was very good because the teacher understood where we come from and the children that we deal with. So most of the topics that they came with were how to deal with community kids and the community area.
Also, we have some kids who have special needs. Before, I didn’t understand them but after the classes I came to understand how to deal with them.
So now we are comfortable and we have confidence we can do something within the library.
What else has changed since the Book Havens came?
For the first time when we had this library, it was not attractive to the kids – we had old books. They are used to the old books so they were not usually coming here. But when Book Aid came, they came with new books. So now when they come here, they see the new books.
I would like to thank the funders of Book Aid International – their project is really taking us far.