Sunday, January 24, 2010

Back in Busia: Progress report

So much has happened since last we were here!

First, the small library room that Maria has been running has been open with regular hours since we left. The people visiting the library has increased a lot. Jimmy, the man who pretty much runs all internet services in Busia and around, has agreed to set up wireless internet for free in the library—even though it will compete with his business! The constraint now is getting computers that are fast enough for the wireless.

Second, they’ve come extremely far with getting the land issue settled. Maria, who is kind, funny, and not going to take any crap from anybody, has been pushing the planning departments both in Nairobi and in Busia to come up with all the paperwork we need to start building. Land is extremely contentious in a lot of African countries, Kenya included. We are not interested in building a library on land that someone will come up with an excuse to take away from us later on. In the US, we would need to make sure that all our 'i's were dotted and 't's were crossed. Here, they need to be dotted, crossed, bolded, underlined and in italics. Maria has been making sure they are.

Third, Jimmy has gotten in touch with the Member of Parliament for Busia, who is extremely interested in the library. In Kenya, there is a decentralized fund called the Community Development Fund, or CDF. The CDF funds, since they’ve started, have been the source of much controversy, as their allocation is often thought to be rife with corruption. However, committed MPs can do good things with these funds. Busia straddles two constituencies, and we hope that the MPs from each will find some funds for us.

It’s also just nice to be back! Sunny Busia is a great break from the cold of New York, and I’ve compulsively bought enough bright fabrics for 3 people. If anyone wants any, let me know!

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