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