The shipping container making writers of the future
Earlier this year, books arrived in the community of Gasave in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali in our very first Voyager Container Library!
The new library is housed in a repurposed shipping container, placed in a public park in Gasave.
We talked toElizabeth Mujawamariya Johnson from our partner Ineza Foundation to find out more about the new library and the difference it is making for local children.
What is life like in Gasave?
Life in the city is not easy. The inequality is obvious. So here in Gasave, surrounding the library, people are quite wealthy but go down the hill just 500 metres and you will find families living in a six by four metre home. They are labourers, cleaners or sell on the street. Most of them are making maximum two dollars a day.
What is access to books like in Rwanda?
There are not many reading books here in Rwanda. The first public library here in Kigali is maybe seven years old. The government is working hard to supply curriculum books for schools but many people do not have enough income to buy books and there is a need of having extra resources for kids to use.
In order to be educated, if you are not a reader, it is hard.
In order to be educated, if you are not a reader, it is hard. Because whether you’re doing primary, secondary or high school, you need books. It’s part of the puzzle – there’s no way of finishing the puzzle without them.
Why did you decide to do a container library?
As a charity, we are trying to get books into the hands of kids – it is one of our visions. And with a container, if there is any community that has a space [for a container] then we can do a project.
What’s the library like?
It’s made in a 40 foot container and can sit around 50 kids. It’s in the setting of a public park. We transformed it, painted it, made shelves and it’s holding over 5,000 books in English and Kinyarwanda. It’s all covered so that when it rains, people are sheltered. It’s a reading environment that’s really attractive.
It’s a reading environment that’s really attractive.
What changes have you seen since the library came?
When we come here on the weekend, it’s packed. There are so many kids! It showed me that their hearts are just boiling for reading.
Not only are kids coming and really having fun, they are all preparing for the national exams – they go inside and grab some of the books to get additional resources.
. . . their hearts are just boiling for reading.
Before the library was here, after school kids would go home and what do they do? Mum is probably out working, dad is not home and they end up starting bad behaviours cause there are no parents looking after them. But now they’re here reading and socialising.
If there was no library for them, some of them wouldn’t be doing well in school. But they are doing their homework here, using the resources and there is a huge improvement in terms of grade – it goes up because of the resources. So giving them this library allows them to go to the next level so they can be the people they want to be.
Giving them this library allows them to go to the next level so they can be the people they want to be.
What are your hopes for the future of the children of Gasave?
The hope I see for these kids, I want to see them being the ones who are actually publishing books. In Rwanda, there’s not many books because in order to write, you need to read. If you don’t read, you can’t write. So if these kids continue to use this and other libraries, they’ll maybe be publishing their own books in the future. They can become those readers who have the zeal to say ‘I can write a book as well.’
We would like to thank the players of People’s Postcode Lottery for supporting the first Voyager Container Library.