Tag Archives: Grace Rwanda

Reading in Kigali

An update from Rwanda

Before lockdown in Rwanda, our partner Ineza Foundation was using books you help to send to support community libraries across the country. This included five Children’s Corners that we have created together and our Voyager Container Library in Kigali, giving a whole community access to brand new books.

Lockdown has closed schools and libraries in Rwanda but Ineza Foundation are finding new ways to support the communities they work in.

Here, Ineza’s Elizabeth Mujawamaliya Johnson tells us more.

Voyager Container Library
Our Voyager Container Library in Kigali

What restrictions on normal life are being imposed because of Covid?

After the initial two-week lockdown on 21st March due, we received extensions twice until 30th April.

Now Rwanda is taking steps to ease the measures. Public transportation has resumed but with limitations, there is a curfew from 8pm to 5am, schools will remain closed until September and wearing facemasks in public is mandatory at all times.

Businesses have resumed work with essential staff while other employers continue to work from home. Markets are open for essential vendors and hotels and restaurants are now open but have to close by 7pm. Meetings in public spaces and mass gatherings are still prohibited.

Education has been affected greatly.

How is the lockdown affecting people’s lives in Rwanda?

The first challenge was lack of food, especially in Kigali and other cities because many people live on their daily incomes. If you work, you can provide a meal for your family, but if no work, then no basic sustenance.

Also since Rwandans are culturally social, it was hard to stay home and not meet friends and family. However, people have had to learn new ways of living, by sharing what they have and using the phone to communicate. The government and partners provided food and neighbours also share what they have to support the vulnerable.

School in Kigali
Schools in Rwanda are currently closed

How is the lockdown affecting children’s education?

Education has been affected greatly, but again people have had to adjust to the reality of what is happening.

The government has launched an eLearning platform using TV, phones, computers and radio. But children living in rural areas are unable to access some of these as they don’t have a TV, smartphone or computer. However, the use of the radio to provide lessons is perfect as it can reach every student everywhere in the country.

It is just the beginning and I believe that more platforms will be introduced to support children to continue their learning at home until schools resume.

We have focused on supporting our local readers and communities with food.

Do people often have books at home in Rwanda?

Rwandans are not readers and they do not have books at home. The first national/public library is less than 10 years old and a culture of reading is currently being introduced. We believe the work we are doing with Book Aid International – creating and equipping more community libraries – is a solution to create that culture though getting books in to the hands of readers.

Our library in Shyorongi … is going to be used for early childhood monitoring and support … This is a great opportunity to promote literacy by providing those new mums with new books to borrow.

How has your work changed since the lockdown?

During the past few weeks, we have focused on supporting our local readers and the communities with food distribution. Basically, we decided to focus on responding to  immediate needs and also following what the government was recommending.

Shyorongi library
Shyorongi library has been repurposed to support local new mums. Ineza Foundation hopes to lend books to them too

The libraries are still closed, but as of today, our library in Shyorongi in the Northern Province is going to be used by local community for early childhood monitoring and support. Basically, mothers with newborn babies and pregnant women will meet at the centre to receive food and to learn how to prepare complete meals for their babies. This is a great opportunity for Ineza Foundation to promote literacy by providing those new mums with books to borrow once a week, until the libraries are open again.

Here in Gisozi, we are continuing to sort books for future distributions.

We believe if we can get more books into the hands of children during lockdown, they will help further their learning.

Do you have any further plans in development?

Yes, we are working with local government officials exploring ways to use the books. We are looking at promoting take-home books distribution. We believe if we can get more books into the hands of children during lockdown, they will help further their learning. When the schools reopen, children will be able to share with their classmates about their reading at this time, they will be motivated to continue reading once back at school. Also, if we can get more books to children, parents will also read or children will read to their parents, therefore promoting the reading culture at all levels: young and adult.

The only challenge we have, is how to get these books to many children, taking into consideration the COVID restrictions. We are still having discussions; we do not want to act before approval from local government. Safety for the community comes first!


*The photos contained in this blog were taken before lockdown.

Voyager Container Library

Our first Voyager Container Library

Last year, books arrived in the community of Gasave in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, in our very first Voyager Container Library!

In partnership with Ineza Foundation and Gisozi Sector Gasobo District Council we transformed a 40-foot shipping container into a thriving community library filled 5,000 brand new books in English and Kinyarwanda, giving local children and the wider community access to new books!

Check it out here:

We’d like to say a special thank you to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for supporting this project and making our first Voyager Container Library possible!


Boy reading

Inspiring the next generation through books

Prosper, Rigobert and Patience in Rwanda grew up with little access to books outside of school. When they graduated from high school, they saw the impact this had on some of their friends who struggled to write letters, apply for jobs and even communicate on social media.

They and three of their friends wanted to change things for the next generation and so they decided to open a children’s library – the first in their district, Musanze. They saved up enough to rent a space for the library for six months and Agati Library was born.

Here Prosper, Rigobert and Patience tell us more about the library and how it is already impacting local children in Musanze:

Patience, Rigopert and Prosper
L-R: Patience, Rigopert and Prosper

Why did you decide to open a library?

Rigobert: When we were kids we didn’t have the chance of having a place where we can get books.

Patience: And so, for some, they are finishing high school and even writing a letter is hard, it can take you like two days.

Prosper: Or they can’t apply for a job, so they have to find someone else to do it for them. I was lucky to be able to go to school but this is the case for a lot of others.

Patience: So when we left high school we made an association.

Rigobert: We were looking for things that were lacking in our community and thinking of the things we could do to help our community and we came up with the idea of making a small library for kids.

Patience: One of the co-founders had the chance of writing a book, the book became successful so when we were thinking about what we lost with not having books, we saw that it was a big loss for us not having a library in our city. So we said let’s do it!

Inside the library
Agati Library has become very popular with local children

What activities do you run in the library?

Rigobert: The first mission is to promote literacy in our community and also promote art at the same time because I am an artist and I wanted to teach the young kids how to paint to give them the opportunity to become a great artists.

Prosper: Kids come and read but we also run other activities to incentivise them to keep coming to the library so they don’t feel like reading is boring. So on the weekends some kids who are passionate about art come and Rigopert gives them some basics. And we also feel like sports is a really important thing so we ask regular readers who are interested in sport to make a team – it might be basketball, tennis, whatever.

We also have the reading sessions so that we can engage the parents at the library – they can come, read to the kids so the kids can believe reading is healthy.

But we don’t say it’s our library, it’s a community library so we encourage everyone, every parent and young person, to bring their ideas together and keep building the activities.

Last month we were very happy when some students from P6 asked “can we do a debate club at the library because these children at this other school, were saying that they are better in English than us?” And we were like “wow!”

Kids reading
Agati Library runs a number of activities to engage children in reading

What difference is the library making?

Prosper: When we started the library, many kids would come to the library and open books but not read them – they were just playing with them but now, they take one book, finish it and take another one. The more we open the library, the more they get used to the books.

Patience: Our regular users have become fluent in reading. One time we hosted a competition for primary schools and we saw the results that the kids who are the regular readers were better than the others.

Patience: At the start they would come and read only Kinyarwanda books but now they are starting to love other books in other languages like English, French and we see the impact they have because the kids can even interact in the language.

Rigobert: Our region is a touristic region – we have the Virunga Mountains, the gorillas, so it is good for the kids to know English so they can communicate with new people, so they can help them in different things.

Kids reading
Regular readers at Agati Library are excelling in reading!

Did you have any idea your library would become this popular?

Prosper: When we opened the library, we didn’t think it would get to the huge level it’s at now.

Patience: It’s become like part of our lives. As we were coming to the end [of the first six months] we were seeing a huge impact to the community – hundreds of kids were coming to the library.

Prosper: So we said “okay, even though we don’t have someone else to support the library and work together, let’s look at different things” [to keep the library open].

What do you hope for the future of your library and the community?

Prosper: We want the library to last even longer. Not two years, five years – a hundred years. So it’s the thing we want to be there forever in our home town.

Rigobert: People they think that reading is not our culture but we have to change that kind of mentality. That is why our library is focussing on kids. We thought that if we can help them love reading, they can be the great people in the future that can also help others to love reading.

Prosper: So we hope these kids who are reading now, who are loving books are the ones who when they finish high school can explain themselves in English, can write a letter, apply for a job, so we believe these kids will in the future be the great leaders.

Thanks so much to Prosper, Rigobert and Patience for sharing their inspiring story and the difference the books that our supporters help to send are making!


Children's Corner a MYSA Library

August Book of the Month

Our latest Book of the Month is:

How Football Explains Africa
Africa United: How football explains Africa by Steve Bloomfield

From the introduction:

“This is not just a book about world cup success. It’s not about goals scored and matches won. It’s about how football can rebuild a country, end a war or provide a beacon of light in a time of despair. It’s the story of how Africa has been shaped by football and how Africa is now shaping football.”

Covering thirteen countries across Africa, journalist Steve Bloomfield speaks to everyone from players and fans to politicians and rebel leaders to discover how football has influenced the continent.

He finds that while the passion that fans have for the game remains just as strong in different countries, the context changes; a nation’s football regularly reflects its politics and culture.

Back cover


This book is a fascinating read and not just for football fans. The book would also be incredibly useful for those studying social sciences, history or anthropology.

Absorbing non-fiction books like this, especially on such a popular topic, are also a great way to change reluctant readers’ perceptions about books and help them discover the joy of reading.

The real-life examples of how football has been an influence for unity and positive change in different African countries will also be useful for our local NGO partners who work in the community or with youth as they think about how they can use sports programmes to help people overcome the challenges they face.

This includes the Mathare Youth Sports Association in Kenya and who use football to empower young people living in Nairobi’s Mathare slum, the community youth centres that Grace Rwanda supports and Windle International in South Sudan.

ILD celebrations in Cameroon

Celebrating literacy across Africa!

Last month, our partners across 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa celebrated International Literacy Day and the power of reading with some of the communities they work in.

The scene is set for celebrations in Tanzania


From Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania’s bustling capital city to remote, rural Zimbabwe, hundreds of school children took part in reading and spelling competitions, performed marches, dances, songs and dramas, gave presentations and speeches and engaged in debates.


Reading competition reader
A pupil in Kenya takes part in a reading competition


Local dignitaries and government officials attended as did local and national media, teachers, parents, publishers and writers as well as members of the wider communities. And all with the aim of promoting reading and raising the profile of libraries and the services they offer.


Giving out awards
A young reader is awarded a prize at EISERVI’s celebrations in Cameroon

As part of the celebrations, each partner gave out 600 brand new, inspiring books that you have helped to send as prizes for participants and for schools to add to their library collections. Our hope is that these books will enable children to continue to enjoy reading long after the excitement of the celebrations have faded.

Occasions like International Literacy Day provide the perfect opportunity to promote reading and literacy. Find out more about some of our partners’ celebrations below.



Celebrations took place at EISERVI’s library in Cameroon’s capital city Yaoundé.

Cameroon students
Secondary school students show off their prizes and book donation for their school library

Once the day’s celebrations were over, children who had never visited EISERVI’s library before were keen to return as soon as they could:

Aunty, I like your library and I would like to come here and read after school. Can I?

– Wenyi Favour, Government Primary School.



In Zimbabwe, Edward Ndlovu Memorial Trust took their celebrations to Selonga Primary School’s community library in rural Gwanda where pupils from neighbouring schools as well as their parents and the wider community joined them.

In addition to competitions, performances and presentations by the children, older people from the community read short stories and spoke of how literacy has enabled them to better their own lives and the lives of their families.

Being literate is important for everyone, young and old. In this fast-changing world, being illiterate will make you lose out on a lot of things – even being in touch with the larger outside world.

– Mrs Mathe.



Kenya National Library Service’s celebrations focused on Kwale branch library. Kwale County has the second highest rate of poverty in the country and a large percentage of school drop outs. This event was a great opportunity to promote reading and the library as a means of learning outside of formal education.

Reading competition
School children perform at Kenya National Library Service’s celebrations in Kwale


It changed the way I thought about reading. I thought reading was only for academic purposes …

– Benjamin Wabwire, teacher.



Our partner CODE Ethiopia celebrated International Literacy Day at Ejere Community Library in rural Ejere town.

Becoming a reader is a must.

– Tsige, teacher.

Apart from serving the local community, I myself have got a lot that changed my life from this library.

– Lemma Kefeni, retired teacher and former librarian.


Sierra Leone

The Sierra Leone Library Board marked International Literacy Day with an event at their headquarters library in Freetown.

There was huge excitement among the children that attended – for many of them it was the first time they had participated in an event like this.



Tanzania Library Services Board’s celebrations took place at their Central Library in Dar es Salaam.




The event included speeches from a variety of people highlighting the importance of reading:

Look how amazing it is that reading brings people together.

– Ms Latifah Miraji, Soma Book Café, local NGO.

Do not use your smart phones to serve only films or music, rather use it to download books of your desire. Read them, understand them and let them bridge your knowledge gap.

– Aneth Amos, pupil, Jangwani Girls Secondary School.


This year, the Library and Information Association of Eritrea held their celebrations at six public and community libraries across the Maekel, South and Anseba regions. This included two prisons where inmates gave speeches about the importance of reading in their lives. One 92-year-old female prisoner spoke about how she had completed first grade for the first time and is now preparing to enter second grade:

I will keep reading until my eyes no longer allow me to do so.



Grace Rwanda celebrated International Literacy Day at Ineza Children’s Corner in the Shyorongi Sector of the Northern Province.


Rwandan dancers
Celebrations included dance performances


The library has already seen an increase in visits from children and schools as a result of the event.


Football match
Celebrations even included a youth football match!

There are books we needed but couldn’t find them and we had limited books but now these books are here, we will read them much!

– Byaruhanga Moses, a pupil at GS Rwisirabo


International Literacy Day celebrations were also held by our partners in Liberia, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and Zanzibar.