“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela
I grew up surrounded by books. I was reading by the age of three and devoured whatever I could manage. I was not well as a child but as a reader I could go anywhere, do anything, be anyone. Within the pages of a book I was free from my own illness as a young child; but also from the worries that plagued me as a teenager; the work struggles I encountered in my twenties and thirties; until in my fifth decade finding myself able to spend my life in books.
I have taken books for granted. They have always been there for me; whichever ones I needed to study at whatever stage of my education; and the ones I wanted to read for fun, imagination and enjoyment. Now I narrate them and write them. They are the foundation of all the work I do and, without them, I would not be who I am now or living as I am.
Not everyone in the world is so lucky. Malawi is one of the poorest nations in the world with no access to Waterstones or Amazon book deliveries. Many families rely on subsistence farming and face huge challenges, including a lack of access to education.
Nkhata Bay North borders Lake Malawi in the isolated north of the country, reachable by a single dirt road that is impassable during the rainy season with many villages only accessible by foot or boat. It is in this area that Temwa has set up Usisya Community Library which houses 5,000 books and provides the community’s only access to newspapers, study resources, study space and basic IT lessons.
This short film explains more about the library and what it provides to the community.
This library is nothing short of a lifeline to the children of the area. It is often the only place they can go to study quietly outside of their cramped and bustling family homes. There are desks and electric lights as well as access to precious books.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. 13 year old Jodrick Chiume lives in Mphande Nkhata Bay North, with his mother and other relatives. He helps his family with farming as well as going to school. He is a member of Usisya Community Library where he is able to concentrate in a space without noise or disturbance. In a country where almost half of the students don’t complete primary school it is an essential complement to his learning, allowing him to broaden his knowledge of the surrounding world and continue expanding his education.
And it isn’t just the children who are library members who benefit. The library also acts as a hub for book distribution to primary and secondary schools in the region. So far the library has distributed 8,000 books to primary and secondary schools as well as books to support eight Reading Camps, for primary school aged children, and women’s Reading Groups.
However, there is a problem. Temwa have been donated many wonderful books but these do not necessarily support the curriculum in Malawi. Students urgently need access to text books in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Maths as well as set texts in Geography and English Literature, my personal favourite “Macbeth” or “The Scottish Play” among them!
As a result I am looking to mark my 100th audiobook narration by raising enough for Temwa to purchase 100 of the 230 books needed to support the library and the children as they make their way through the national curriculum. We are already over half way to the target but I’d be very happy to surpass it!
Through this library children like Jodrick will be able to complete their education. They will discover more about farming and other ways to support themselves and their communities. They will find a way to move out of the poverty that restricts their freedom through their learning. It is the key to opening up their minds, their villages and their world.
Temwa’s ultimate aim is to equip communities with the skills they need to transform their own futures and, in doing so, work themselves out of a job. These books are an essential part of that transformation. A donation of as little as £8 can allow many children the opportunity to understand the workings of their own body, the way the universe is put together, or savour the poetry of Shakespeare.
The wonderful thing is that we can help them. We can give hope for a better tomorrow through the simple gift of a book. Books are magic. They open doors. They build understanding. They enrich lives. We can enrich the lives of the people of Malawi now through donating money to buy books. The children can learn and grow and the parents can relax, knowing their sons and daughters have the resources they need to thrive and build the future of their country.
Books are an everyday magic to me, like sunshine, or the smile on my son’s face. But not everyone is so fortunate. I wish that were not so. I wish for all children to have the easy access to education that I enjoyed and that I can provide easily for my son and daughter.
So please, take a moment to think about what books have meant to you and see if you can find £8 to buy one for a library that serves children in an inhospitable part of the planet and help them make a better tomorrow.
If you’d like to donate follow the link: 100 books for 100 audiobooks
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Look out for next month’s blogs when I’ll be talking about mindfulness and how it can improve our lives.