Tag Archives: slums

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.

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