The first time I experienced the face of what is described as a “reading famine” was in Ghana, Africa in 2007. I worked as a volunteer teacher in a small rural community. Upon my arrival at the schools, I was shocked and saddened by the absence of books not only in the schools, but the entire village as well. At the same time I was astounded by the importance the community placed on the education of their children. Every classroom was overflowing with children eager to learn. These children walked 1-2 miles to school, had very little to eat and sat two to three to a desk with only a pad of paper and pencil. The only resources were a chalkboard, a box of chalk and the spoken word. While working with the children, who had an intense hunger for learning and held amazing goals for their future, I couldn’t help but wonder how different their life experience might be if given books to read.
The library has helped me to do research about things I did not know at school. When I do research at the library, I perform very well at school.
The reality in the village of Senchi Ferry, like so many villages in Africa, is that approximately 95% of the children attend school at the elementary level, but only around 20% continue through high school. This decrease is due to financial hardship as well as lack of educational resources. Without books to supplement classroom learning, many students fall behind and are unable to pass the examination necessary for admission to senior high school. For most children, education ceases at ages fourteen to sixteen.
It was the combination of the community’s desire for a library, the children’s zest for learning and my own passion for education and reading that inspired me to help build a library in the village of Senchi Ferry, Ghana. Funds were raised, books were collected, the library construction was completed through the hard work of both American and Ghanaian volunteers. The Senchi Ferry Community Library officially opened in January 2011. The library services a total of 6 villages making it accessible to over 20,000 people. Currently more than 1,000 children use the library each week. (For more details about this project please visit www.senchiferrylibrary.com).
Since the library was built, I come every day to read books and to learn how to spell. When I don’t understand something in school, I can use the books in the library to help me understand.