Books empowering vulnerable children in Uganda
SOS Children’s Villages Uganda works with some of Uganda’s most vulnerable children, providing family-like care in SOS-set up ‘villages’ for children who can no longer be cared for by their families and strengthening families which are at risk of separation.
The library in the SOS Children’s Village in Entebbe is now stocked with 2,500 brand new children’s readers, storybooks and novels which our supporters have helped to send.
We asked Louis Apenya, Programme Director at SOS Children’s Village Entebbe, to tell us how these books will support the children and families they work with.
Can you tell us a bit more about your organisation’s work?
As an organisation, we target children in the most vulnerable families in the communities. SOS Children’s Village Entebbe is located in an urban setting, therefore, our target group are the urban poor. Most of the parents and caregivers have low education level, lack employable skills and survive on manual jobs that are not guaranteed.
These families already lack some of the most basic needs of life so thinking about books for children is too remote from their daily life struggles and also these families also cannot afford to take their children to private schools where at least some books are made available to children to read. So our villages have education facilities including a library (which are open to the whole community) to help address some of these challenges.
How does education play a role in your organisation’s work?
Education remains a major milestone in fighting the cycle of poverty in our communities. Creating a good learning environment and providing learning materials like books needed by the children and their teachers is monumental to helping the children become self-reliant, but children from these families go to government-aided free education schools that have very high child-to-book ratio.
The donation from Book Aid International will help to bridge the gaps in book supply in these schools where numbers of pupils are very high because of universal primary education introduced by Government in 2009. Apart from the cost involved, the kinds of books supplied are extremely difficult to get locally. These brand new books will therefore go a long way to reduce the constraint of learning materials in the highly populated schools.
How has the arrival of the books impacted on the children?
The arrival of the new set of books from Book Aid International has aroused interest of children in reading. The frequency of children’s borrowing from the library has sharply increased from 5 books a week to 32 books a week.
A case of a boy called Dennis* should help explain the impact of the books. Dennis was a very quiet and reserved boy but the day he started reading for fun he all of a sudden became so outgoing, very good at storytelling and always asking questions and wanting to know more. He has started coming to the resource room every day to borrow a book and he reads it in less than a day, returns and narrates everything he has read in that book. He does this for every book he borrows.
What are your plans for the future?
We intend to use this new momentum for personal reading that the new books have generated to promote a ‘reading for pleasure’ campaign in the children’s village as well as the community schools where our other supported children go. In each of these schools, we shall help set up a simple library system that can facilitate book borrowing and promote a reading culture.
*Name has been changed.
Our recent shipment to Uganda includes over 5,000 further brand new books for SOS Children’s Villages in Uganda.