Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mama-Mtoto Meeting: The Lamu Book

Hi all!

During the last week of our official UCU internship, we visited the home of one of the mamas who lives in Bulanda, near Busia town. We interacted with her kids, asked her more about her experiences with the program, and watched her read the Busia book with her children. It was such a great experience to see the children's reactions during the storybook reading (they love the Kiluhya version!) and we saw a new side of the project. We have only been meeting with the mamas so it was great to see how the children get involved and how they enjoy the benefits of Mama-Mtoto. Though we only managed to visit one mama during the internship (they are all very busy!), I know that Harmke will try to visit as many as she can before she leaves in October. We learnt a great deal more about the impact that Mama-Mtoto is having at these homes, so it was extremely valuable.

This past Thursday (18/08) we had another Mama-Mtoto meeting in Busia and it went great, despite that only eight mamas came. First, we discussed the experiences with the Busia book. As one of the assigned activities, we asked that the children create an ending for the story, as it ends at a climactic point. The stories that the children told were extremely creative! There were also many drawings of the various characters of the story and it was clear that the children thoroughly enjoyed the Busia book! One mother said: “My kids liked the story in this book, they do not like the hare though, because he was so cunning and clever so he spoiled everything!” The children also recognized that their mothers had recorded the story, seeing their pictures and names in the beginning, which they really liked.

After we finished discussing the Busia book, we distributed the Lamu book, which arrived just that morning! The mamas were very excited to see what story the mothers from another community had recorded. The Lamu book – The White Spot – is about a couple who are unable to have a child. They go to see a traditional healer, who offers them a red rose (for a girl) or a purple rose (for a boy). After choosing the red rose, the healer warns them that the girl should not be rained on, and soon after they get a beautiful baby girl who they call Doajeupe – The White Spot. Doajeupe goes to school and one day walks home in the rain when her parents do not pick her up on time. A snake enters her body from the rain and consumes her until she cannot walk. The parents search for the healer, who turns out to be dead, and they go across the sea to find a queen to heal their daughter. When she does, Doajeupe marries the prince and everyone lives happily ever after.

After reading the story, the mothers discussed whether Doajeupe had gone back to school or if she entered into early marriage and left school. It was so interesting to see them discuss that it would be bad if she had not finished school! In the end they decided that it had taken so long to heal her that by the time she married she was too old to be in school anyway. After reading the Lamu description, we discussed how 90% of the people in Lamu are Muslim, and how they are currently taking a break from the program for Ramadan.

The mothers asked us during the meeting whether it would be possible to sell the Busia book in the community, as their friends are asking to buy a copy. The mamas argued that everyone would want a locally published story – this might be a great idea for the library to raise funds!

We asked the mamas whether their perception of the library had changed through the Mama-Mtoto program and one mama answered: “I have seen the library many times, but that is a place for kids and teachers, now I realize that it is a place for me as well.” It is so interesting to see how they are growing to love reading and the mamas said they would take their children to the library after the project was finished. Many mamas said that they only ever read the Bible, but now they actually want to read other books!

One mama said: “In my house, I would only think of reading a Bible. But now I find it interesting to read other books, it has definitely changed the attitude, there is a lot of sharing and happiness. I would never imagine I could enjoy anything else but now I can enjoy these things with my children.”

Another added: “My brain had gone to sleep completely, I would have never thought of picking up a book. But now I am awake, I want to read and my kids are also very excited they want to read more storybooks. They know now that there is a library and they will read more. The future is bright and I see reading in their future!”

It is clear that the Mama-Mtoto project has created a reading culture among the participants, which is extremely motivating to see!

After the focus group we conducted, we celebrated Harmke's 22nd birthday with all the participants in the library! They sang for her, we ate cake, and we took a group photo. It was great to socialize with everyone for a while because this was my last Mama-Mtoto meeting!

On Friday we presented our research project to Maria and Esther at Maria's farm. We have almost finished the internship report which presents all of our results! It has been great to evaluate Mama-Mtoto and research how it could be improved next time.

It has been amazing to work with this project and I will definitely be keeping myself up to date with the progress that is made. I want to take this opportunity to thank Maria's Libraries for allowing me to work with the program and providing such a great learning opportunity! From now on, it will be Harmke keeping you all updated as she is staying in Busia for another two months.


Susan and Harmke

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mama-Mtoto Meeting: The Busia Book Arrives!

Dear all,

Another two weeks have passed and last Thursday we held the fifth Mama-Mtoto meeting (the second meeting Harmke and I attended). It was a nerve-wrecking few days before the meeting as we were trying to get the Busia book printed in time! After several samples with pages missing, crooked, and cut roughly we were anxious to see the state of the 18 books that were supposed to have arrived much earlier than they did – the morning of the meeting. Fortunately, they looked great! Super relieved and excited to show the mamas the story they had recorded in print form, we headed to the meeting. The mamas that came were much more timely this week, giving everyone more time to reflect on their experiences and also more time to admire the final product of the Busia story, The Wonders of Friendship. For those who are curious, the story is about three friends: a hare, a hyena, and a tortoise. The friends decide to plant and harvest groundnuts, but the hare keeps avoiding the workload. After the hyena and tortoise do all the work, the hare tries to get his hands on the final result: the groundnuts. Having anticipated this, the two friends had covered the granary containing the nuts with glue. The hare therefore got stuck as he attempted to break in, and that's where the story ends. The story is fully illustrated and written in four languages: English, Kiswahili, Kiteso, and Kisamia.

Before presenting the mamas with the book, we discussed the extra two weeks they spent with the Mcheshi Goes to School book. None of the mothers tried the clapping game (where the children have to clap when a certain word is read), and most did not do the color game (where the children have to point to a certain color on every page), although some did their own version of this game and others colored. The mothers said that the children loved the wordsearches! They wanted more of them, and also more difficult ones as some of the children said it was too easy.

Finally it was time to present the mamas with The Wonders of Friendship. They were all extremely happy to see them and clapped for us (a clap that should resonate to all those who contributed to the project in one way or another, well done!). For some minutes we just sat and looked at the book – the mamas happily seeing their picture and names on the second page (although only the names and pictures of those mamas who were present at the second meeting in June were in there, which is a bit of a shame. We will change this for the e-book). The plastic covers we had brought from Nairobi were, unfortunately, a bit too big for the books but we might be able to fix it with some tape. Esther read the book in Kisamia to everyone, and the Busia description at the end, only in English. The mamas were smiling throughout. After, all the mamas read the book together in Kiswahili.

The next assignment Esther gave was for the mamas to write a summary of the story in their notebooks. She gave them 10 minutes and the mamas nervously grabbed their pens. Many sneaked a peek into the book for help when Esther was out of the room – we told them that it wasn't a test and everyone laughed. Afterwards, one summary in each language was read out loud (only one mother wrote in English, most wrote in Kiswahili, and a couple in Kisamia). Since none of the mamas wrote in Kiteso, two mamas read part of the Kiteso text from the book.

Next Esther introduced the new activities for the Busia book: retrying the color pointing and clapping games, drawing “what happens next” (or a character from the book if the child is too young to understand), and a new wordsearch. Then Harmke and I had prepared another focus group for our own research project concerning the husband's response to, and interaction with, the Mama-Mtoto project. Finally, the meeting closed with refreshments and socializing.

As for the printing of the storybooks, the status is as follows: the Busia book has already been sent to Elangata Wuas and is currently being printed and sent to Garissa and Lamu (these two sites are not meeting in August because of Ramadan, so they are not in a rush to receive the books). Next is the Lamu book, which is also finished! We are having a sample sent here as soon as possible and then we can hopefully order the batch of books for Busia this week. The Elangata Wuas book is almost done and will be next in line after Lamu. Garissa will be printed last because it still requires some more editing work and we are missing some information from the site. All things considered the project is coming along well!

That's all the updates we have for now. You'll hear more from us in the coming two weeks!


Susan and Harmke

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Video of the Garissa mobile library

I love this video about the mobile unit affiliated with the Garissa library. The mobile unit is a camel! Head librarian Rashid Farah explains how The camel is loaded with books and walks to area schools to lend books to children.

View the youtube video here.

Maria's Libraries is working with the library in Garissa to implement a literacy program (the Mama Mtoto Story Time Program, developed and implemented as a collaboration between Maria's Libraries and AfricaSOMA, and to which Harmke and Susan refer below). As part of this program we are producing four childrens' books, one from each community participating in the program. The one from Garissa is a traditional story told in Somali, and we will publish it as told in Somali, Swahili, and in English--all in one book!