Over the past two months, I’ve been working with my community counterpart to develop the village library. The first Peace Corps Volunteer in my village worked to build a library, which is currently housed at one of the local primary schools. The library is run by an association of local residents. The collection includes many textbooks on a variety of subjects: health, biology, math, economics, etc. There are also many novels and chapter books. However, all the books are in English and there are very few simple chapter books or picture books for young readers.
I feel like this project is a great example of the timeline we work with as volunteers- development takes a long time. This secondary project began when a group of ED 1 volunteers worked together to get the grant to build libraries in several communities. However, the books were not delivered until after they had finished their service. So then the distribution of the books and the setting up of the library was spearheaded by the ED 2 volunteers who were still in Rwanda. And now ED 2 has gone home and I, an ED 4 volunteer, am still working to improve the library.
When I first arrived at site, my community counterpart approached me with an idea to hold training classes every weekend for primary and lower secondary students to teach them about using the library. Every Saturday and Sunday morning for seven weeks, Jean de Dieu and I met with students at the library to work on a variety of activities.
I focused my lessons on how to read a book and to use the library, for example explaining how to find topics in the table of contents, look up vocabulary in the index, define genres of books, etc. I also tried to explain how to keep books organized by keeping all the non-fiction books sorted by subject and fiction books alphabetized. Jean de Dieu focused on some sort of English lesson. For example, he would give each student a textbook and would try to discuss a topic with them. Some of our lessons flopped, but some of them were successful!
We mixed in some lighter activities such as drawing and playing games. One day I brought a wiffle ball and bat and we hit balls around with the students. There are some travel sets of Trouble, tic-tac-toe, and checkers that students like to play. I brought a puzzle from the Dollar Store, which took a good bit of explaining, but they eventually got the hang of it!
On Thursday we had a ceremony with students, parents, and some sector officials to celebrate the end of the first of our training. There were many speeches by parents and skits by students to demonstrate what they had learned. Next term, we’re supposed to move on and start working with some other schools in the area. We also plan to train an official librarian and try to eventually get some set operating hours for the library. I would love to start an art wall and story hour- we’ll see how it goes!