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A better life through books

Sharon grew up in an informal community at the edge of Nairobi. Despite the challenges she faced, she knows the power books and perseverance can truly have.

My name is Sharon Akiyu Onyango. I’m twenty-two years old and I live in Kibera – I grew up in the informal community here.   

I’m someone who’s driven by my dreams. I’m future oriented and I can say I’m hard-working and patient. I went to primary school and high school nearby, and I’m now in second year at KMTC – a medical training college where I’m doing a course in health records and information technology.  

Life is tough growing up here and really it’s about survival. It was hard growing up to stay in school. A friend of mine for example came to school with me, but then there was a term where she gave up. But I kept on pushing and pushing until I finished, despite the challenges. 

Most people here go a day with maybe one or two meals and they have to be okay with it. So money is a major problem. Girls especially often end up having early marriages and pregnancies because they are struggling. 

But one thing when you’re raised here is that you get to find helpful organisations like this library. 

Sharon in the library

There are programmes in the library where you can get involved and meet other people, and your mind opens up. It makes you think that you don’t want to be in the same place you’ve always been, so I think that is what pushes me.  

I had two years without going to school – school fees are high, and I was not sure what I wanted to do. So I sat down and asked myself and my friends, ‘What do you think?’ In the end, I decided to do health records information technology, so that’s what I study now.  

Books are so important for studying. I love to read a lot! 

I read this one book, it was introduced to me at this library we are in now, it’s called The Richest Man in Babylon. It talks about the ancient people from Babylon, and how they used to save. So it teaches us about savings and how you have to get your money to work for you. That’s why I love that book.  

Sharon searching for medical books for her studies in the library

It’s so important for people to read. English is everything here in Kenya, especially in Nairobi. If you interact with anyone, that is the language you’re using, and people start to struggle when they don’t read, as they struggle to know English.  

Before I discovered the importance of books, I was one of those people!  

I would have preferred to watch a movie or use my phone or just do other things. But I have learnt if you read, and invest in reading books well, you’ll get to a better place in life. 

It’s thanks to the generous publishers who donate books to us, and our supporters who provide funds to ship them, that libraries in Kenya like the one Sharon visits are full of inspiring books that help foster a love of reading. Find out more about our work supporting libraries here.

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