Tag Archives: MYSA

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.

MYSA readers

Books bringing inspiration in Mathare slum

Sarah Maria, 12, lives in the Mathare slum in Nairobi, Kenya. She discovered the joy of reading when she visited her local Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) library with some friends. Here she tells us how her love for books began:


Sarah Maria
Sarah Maria

I used to hear my fellow students talk about a library but never had any idea about the library until one day I made an effort and followed them. I found myself staring at many books arranged in the library. I was very shy and scared of asking any question but as time went by – three years now –  I feel more calm and confident than I was.


Friends study together
Many school children visit MYSA’s libraries after school and at the weekends to use books to support their studies


The assistance I get from the books I read in the library or borrow have really played a key role in shaping my life making me better and better.

One day I came across a book through the daily reading session in the library titled The Olympic Promise by Lynda Edwards. It is a story book that I have read many times more than any other.


The Olympic Promise


The book is about a young boy called Nelson from a poor family. He loved running, it was his talent. He later became famous after achieving a lot.


As well as using books to help with homework and revision, many children go to MYSA’s libraries to read for pleasure


This book helped me as I kept on trying to be like Nelson. I wanted to know more about myself and what I was good at. I realised that I was good at singing. It’s a talent that I cherish. I am still in primary school and I’m now able to write my own songs. I believe that one day I will excel in music.


Githurai MYSA library

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.


MYSA kids reading
For many local children, MYSA’s libraries provide a welcoming space they can read, learn and play


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.


Wilson reading
The librarian training has given Wilson and his colleagues more confidence in working with children


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.


Kids reading
Eager readers love the brand new books now available in their new Book Haven


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.


MYSA Book Havens readers

Book Havens Kenya final evaluation

Between September 2016 and December 2017 our Book Havens project was implemented in three libraries in the Mathare and Kibera slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Working in partnership with the Kenya National Library Service (knls) and Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA), the project aimed to create peaceful and welcoming spaces filled with brand new children’s books for the most marginalised children to enjoy reading. This paper presents our findings.


Project background

Too many children in Africa and around the world are growing up in a world without books. They live in families where parents are struggling even to put food on the table, so buying books is simply not possible. Schools rarely have reading books and pupils must share a textbook between up to 14 pupils. Without access to books, children may never have the chance to expand their horizons through education.

Where governments are unable to provide the resources and services that communities need to enrich young readers’ lives, many have come together to create their own libraries. Community libraries have the potential to offer a vital haven where children can discover books, but they are almost always run by volunteers or staff who have no formal librarian training and few have the funds to buy books. As a result, librarians often find it difficult to provide effective support for young readers.

Our Book Havens project with knls and MYSA, aims to meet this need by creating spaces in community libraries where children’s reading and learning can flourish. In each library, we offer:

  • Training in how to support, engage and inspire young readers
  • Funds to refurbish the library’s space to ensure it is welcoming and child-friendly
  • A grant to purchase locally published books which reflect children’s own experiences and may be in local languages

Key findings from the Book Havens project


– Increased use of the library by local children in their own time

More children are visiting the libraries more frequently as a result of the availability of brand new books. There has also been an increase in the number of books that children are borrowing to read both in the library and at home.

Improved library services

As a result of the training, librarians are more confident in running their libraries, working with children and are now offering a wider range of reading activities for children.

Increased school outreach

Librarians are now also running more outreach to local schools, with an increased number of visits to schools. They are also receiving more school groups into the library for reading activities.

Read the full report here



John reading

The book that inspired John

18-year-old John grew up in the Mathare slum in Nairobi, Kenya and discovered his local library run by our partner the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) when he was ten.

At his new library, he read all sorts of books but there was one in particular which he found so inspiring it kept him going back to the library time and again. Here he tells us more.


John and his favourite book
John with his favourite book


The MYSA library changed my life.

I remember when I was just a little boy, thirsting for knowledge at the age of ten, I stumbled upon the library as I trudged along the road close to our home. Upon learning that the library services offered were free, I did not hesitate to become a member. I started reading storybooks and the complexity of the books increased with my age. However the book that motivated me to come to the library many more times was a book by Roald Dahl known as Boy.


Engrossed in reading at a MYSA library
Engrossed in reading at a MYSA library


Boy is a short biography of the renowned children’s books author Roald Dahl. As a youngster in the library I enjoyed his books such as The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. However, I like Boy the most because it highlights the childhood events that moulded him into what he eventually became. This book motivated me as a child because Roald Dahl brings out the challenges they faced as a family.


MYSA readers
Enjoying books after school


Unfortunately Roald’s father died and left a family of six children. What inspires me is how Roald’s mother managed to struggle and raise the children on her own in a foreign land (Roald’s parents had moved to England from Norway). She did not snap at the shock and pressure of becoming poor but she pressed on. Despite the challenges, Roald still makes it and later on works with the Shell Company in East Africa. His desire for adventure sends him there despite the criticism he faces.

I am inspired by how successful he became while facing all the odds. From that time henceforth, I have been a regular MYSA member thirsting for knowledge. My MYSA library has been a major positive influence in my life.


Thanks to your support, young people like John in the Mathare slum are enjoying a wide range of inspiring children’s books. They also have refreshed spaces to read in as part of our Book Havens project.

Lagam library Kenya

Our top 10 highlights from 2017

Thanks to your support we achieved so much in 2017!

With your help, our books reached readers in TWENTY countries, over 88,000 primary school children are enjoying new books in school thanks to our Inspiring Readers programme, more than 5,000 books reached displaced people in Greece and much more besides.

We couldn’t have done it without you.

Take a look at the ten short clips below for more of our 2017 highlights.


Highlight 10

60-year-old Florence in Kenya joined an adult education class and using the books you helped to send, learned to read for the very first time.

Highlight 9

Schools and libraries in the Occupied Palestinian Territories received twice as many books.

Highlight 8

Our amazing donors smashed our Open Doors Children’s Corners appeal’s £600,000 target, giving thousands of children in seven countries vibrant reading spaces to discover books.

Highlight 7

30,000 brand new books reached readers in Rwanda.

Highlight 6

3,806 books were shipped to the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan.

Highlight 5

5,541 books reached displaced people in Greece.

Highlight 4

Books you helped to send are now filling a library in rural Uganda where they are helping children develop a love of reading and farmers to cope with the effects of climate change.

Highlight 3

88,903 primary school children in Cameroon, Kenya and Malawi now have brand new books in their classrooms thanks to our Inspiring Readers programme.

Highlight 2

Children in Nairobi’s slums are now enjoying Book Havens in three local libraries.

Highlight 1

Thanks to your support, we sent books to 20 countries, which will reach over 20 million readers!

Thank you for your support in 2017. Here’s to getting even more books to the people who need them the most in 2018!

For more information about the work you supported in 2017, take a look at the links below.


Book Haven in MYSA

‘We love the new books!’

Library after refurb
School children enjoy a reading activity in their new Book Haven at MYSA’s Githurai Library



We love the new books!

– John, 10

John is just one of hundreds of children in Nairobi’s Mathare slum enjoying a revitalised children’s section in his local library.

Mathare covers just 3 square miles but is home to around 600,000 people. Children like John live with their families in small shacks, often without electricity and no room to play or study.

Our Book Havens pilot project with Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) libraries aims to create welcoming spaces for the most marginalised children to enjoy books and reading.

John and other young readers told us about their new Book Havens:




John, 10, comes to the library to read storybooks because he doesn’t have any at home and there are none in his school. John’s favourite books are the Beast Quest series. He loves the stories and pictures in them.

Thank you for giving us good books. We love the books!




Thirteen-year-old Cynthia’s favourite subject is science but there are very few course books available at her school. At home, she has two story books which were handed down to her. Cynthia loves the new books in her library and the colourful paint and drawings on the walls:

The library used to have old books with missing pages. I am happy that all the new books are interesting and colourful. I like the new paint on the walls. Everything in the library is now very nice. I feel happy when I come to the library because I am able to read many interesting books in a beautiful place that feels like heaven.




Jason, 12, lives about five minutes away from the library. The area he lives in is very noisy both during the day and at night. Jason’s favourite subject is maths and he would like to be a pilot when he grows up. Jason likes the changes to his library:

The library is very clean, there is no litter or dirt anywhere. I like the pictures on the wall, especially the one with a cartoon playing basketball. I feel happy when I see it and I like reading in the corner where the picture has been drawn.




Ann, 8, enjoys coming to the library to read storybooks and play. Her favourite book is Five Little Monkeys. Without books, she says she would not have anything to do.

Thank you so much. We are happy with the new books.


About Book Havens

In slum communities, access to books and finding a place to read can be particularly difficult. Our new Book Havens pilot aims to provide Kenyan children who face the day to day challenges of trying to learn in slum areas with peaceful, welcoming spaces where they can explore beautiful, inviting books and be supported by trained staff and volunteers.

Two of MYSA’s libraries in Mathare took part in the Book Havens pilot and with your support we hope to extend the project to the rest of their libraries.

The librarians in these two libraries have attended training in working with children and the libraries themselves have received a donation of brand new children’s books to add to their collections, grants to decorate the children’s section and purchase child-sized furniture and a grant to purchase locally published books.

Find out more about our Book Havens project and our work with MYSA using the links below.

George leading a reading activity

Making a difference in Mathare slum

At Book Aid International, we are privileged to partner with libraries of many types and librarians from all walks of life.

These partners use books in settings ranging from established national library networks to rural community libraries to NGO run libraries in slum communities. George Wambugu is a librarian for the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) in Nairobi, Kenya. He manages the group’s four libraries in the Mathare slum.  

We spoke to him about his own history, how a difficult start motivates him today and what being a librarian means to him:


George reading with children


I was brought up in a slum by my mum after the death of our dad in 1990. Putting a meal on the table was a big battle that we had to fight daily. Growing up in a family of ten with no one to rely on apart from our mum gave us strength as we saw her working harder every day.

School fees, uniforms and books were some of the things that I never even wanted to hear anyone mention as they left me thinking about whether I would be at school or on the street. Sometimes we also spent lots of hours and days away from school just hunting to feed ourselves.


Mathare slum
A typical street in Mathare


Then in 1997 I got the chance to work in MYSA. MYSA offers room for empowerment to many youth living in Mathare slum through sports programs as well as other community development programs, like photography, libraries, music, art and education, to name but a few.

In 2003, I became a library attendant. With different opportunities coming my way I grew bigger and better and became who I am today. I am now able to speak, encourage, support and offer guidance to many, especially those from less fortunate backgrounds.


Excited readers in MYSA library
Two very excited readers in a library George manages


I am proud to work in MYSA’s slum libraries. The presence of the MYSA community libraries creates havens for children and young people, offering them an alternative to idling on the street where they are vulnerable.

We have many high quality books donated by Book Aid International that meet the needs of a high number of users and soon we will even have Children’s Corners in two of our libraries. This project will create a transformation in our libraries and will help us to focus our work in order to make them even more welcoming and engaging for children.

I enjoy every moment when I give hope to children and young people who I come across. Being in charge of the libraries in MYSA gives me so much happiness.

If you receive books from Book Aid International and are inspired by a librarian or volunteer, we would love to hear from you. Please get in touch and tell us about them.

Want to hear more inspiring stories? Sign up to our newsletter and take a look at the links below.


Children reading in Mathare, Kenya

A first-hand look at how books change lives

Emma Taylor, our new Head of Communications, recently visited a few of the libraries we support in Kenya and Uganda to get a first-hand view of the impact that the books we send are having on people’s lives.

In this, her first blog she reflects on how the people she met show how a book really can change a life.

When I told my good friend Katie that I was taking a role at Book Aid International she was curious about what the charity does. I explained to her that the charity existed to ensure that everyone had access to books because books change lives. She looked at me blankly. “But how?” she asked.

My jaw hit the floor. To a life-long book lover like me, the many ways that a book could change a life were self-evident. Katie, on the other hand, was not a reader. She had not read a book since leaving university.

To her, it was not at all clear how a book could have value in a poor community where basics like clean water and safe housing had not been met. In schools, she allowed, books could help education. But a library for adults in a community that didn’t even have electricity? She needed convincing.

It was with Katie in mind that I boarded the plane to Kenya. My mission was clear: Identify stories that would answer the question of how books are changing lives in vulnerable communities.

600,000 people in 3 square miles

I started my trip visiting libraries in one of the largest slums in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi called ‘Mathare’. Mathare is a small plot of land of about 3 miles square that is home to an estimated 600,000 people. No one knows exactly how many people live there because most Mathare residents are informal settlers who are not registered with the government. People live in small shacks made from whatever they can find – some tin, wood and tarpaulin typically.

A typical street in Mathare
A typical street in Mathare

Despite Kenya’s rapid economic growth and Mathare’s position in the country’s capital city, few the area’s residents have benefited from the country’s success and most lack formal jobs. I spoke at length to a woman who made around £0.70 a day selling canned goods. She tried to feed herself and her daughter with the money.

In these difficult, cramped circumstances our partner, Kenyan non-profit Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA), has managed to find space for three libraries. These libraries are so popular that when I visited, I could not actually get into them because every available centimetre was full of children reading. The librarians had to clear a path so that I could interview one of the readers, 16 year old Moses.

Two girls enjoying a book together at their local library
Two girls enjoying a book together at their local library

“Knowledge is power”

Moses is using books to improve his life
Moses is using books to improve his life

Once I was finally able to reach him, I asked Moses how the books in the library have changed his life. He explained that the books we send are crucial to his education:

In the past I saw English as a hard subject. But the moment I started coming to the library it became my favourite subject. English can make a very big difference in my life. It can be a career – and it improves my creativity and innovation.

But of course, Katie already knew that books help education. Her question was about the role of books in libraries that serve deprived communities like Mathare. Would it not be better to just send money so that houses, water pumps and roads could be built? I put the question to Moses:

We can have so many houses, but when we don’t have books we don’t have the knowledge of how to take care of the houses. So it’s important for us to have the books because knowledge is power – and that’s the best thing to have!

Moses’ message was repeated to me at all the libraries I visited. Of course library users acknowledged that their communities need other types of support as well, but all agreed that access to information is critical to building a bright future.

In rural communities, the agriculture books we send are allowing people to increase crop yields and fight off malnutrition. In cities, library outreach is giving children who are out of school the opportunity to read.

We’ll publish stories about a few of the people I interviewed over the next few months (so stay tuned!) and I am already looking forward to my next trip back to Africa so that I can meet more of the inspiring people who are reading our books and changing their own lives.


Emma’s experiences echo the messages we hear from our partners across sub-Saharan Africa: The books that they receive are helping people to build better futures for themselves and their communities. These books would not reach the people who need them most without the support of our donors, the publishers who provide the books and the volunteers who pack the books ready for shipment. We cannot thank all of our supporters enough.

If you’d like to hear from more of the people Emma met, please subscribe to our newsletter using the form at the bottom of this page or follow @book_aid on twitter.