Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fisherman at Sunset by Vincent Ouma

I love this painting by Vincent Ouma, it's about three and a half feet wide and a foot and a half feet tall. This brings me right back to Lake Victoria and the shores in Kisumu. I'm putting one of my photographs of Lake Victoria as well.

If you'd like more information about this piece or artist, let me know!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Erick Ayoti: Tunnel Music

"Tunnel Music" is Erick's representation of his grandfather playing traditional Luo music. This painting was Erick's first painting using acrylic on canvas. Although he has been showing and selling his paintings in Kisumu, Kenya for many years, this exhibition marks the first time this work has been viewed by the public. It is a great honor that Erick allowed me to take this work to America to be included in this exhibition.

If you would like more information about the artist or this piece, please email me at

Introducing. . . Life on the Shores of Lake Victoria

Those of you on our newsletter will have seen that Maria's Libraries organized a gallery exhibition featuring paintings from Kisumu, Kenya at the Museum of African Culture in Portland, Maine. More details about the overall show will be forthcoming. This blog, however, is to introduce the series of blogs that will showcase this work. I will be posting paintings from the show twice a week for the duration of the show. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hi there Library Friends-

It's Katie here, the new library volunteer most recently from Madison, WI.  I'm actually in Busia because my husband Miles is working for IPA.  While I'm here I have the freedom to spend part of my time manning the desk at the library, teaching the computer class to the Mamas, and scheming up other things to do in the library.  I'm also working part-time for IPA.

Last week Esther and I painted the children's side yellow!  We tore down the posters, scrubbed down the walls (Esther) and then I used my summer-in-college-spent-painting skills to rejuvinate the walls on that side.  It turned out beautifully, and then we hired an artistic fundi (handyman) to come in and paint images of animals on the wall as well.  We are thrilled with the results.  Now, of course, Esther and I have our sights set on doing something to the adult side as well, we shall see!

Tomorrow will be another computer class with the Mamas.  They are such eager learners, even coming in extra mornings just to practice typing skills.  We're trying to determine which computer skills are most useful and practical for them to aim to acquire.  This is a work in progress.

I hope you enjoy the pictures of the Library Makeover and the computer class!


Rose and Scholastica diligently practice typing

 Maria and the rabbit consult about his choice in books

Esther having a teaching moment with the rabbit

 Standing in front of their favorite animals

Fish and Lizard!

Esther and me with the kids: "Welcome children!  Karibu Watoto!"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bye Bye Busia

Hey everyone!

Today is my last day working at the library here in Busia, so I thought I'd share some of my final observations and reflections with you.

I hope you have enjoyed the Daily Visitors posts, I had a lot of fun making them. The readers were excited to tell me more about what they thought about the library and had no problem being photographed! This past Monday, Katie and I conducted the last computer class I attended, which Katie will continue with after I leave. The mothers have been making great progress, all arriving on time and being very dedicated students. The mamas have also become much more engaged during our meetings, being more open about what they know and what they still want to learn. I remember most of the mamas did not speak the first time I met them back in July, and now they cannot stop asking me questions and laughing at some of my weird “Dutch” ways.

During our transition meeting this past Tuesday, Maria and Esther expressed their excitement about the computer classes and they hope this will link the mamas to the library even more. They both appreciated my efforts here over the past 3 months and insisted I come back soon! Yesterday, Maria, Esther, Jimmy, Mary and I took a trip to Kisumu and enjoyed some beers and fish by Lake Victoria, as a final kwaheri (goodbye) to me.

It has been great interning for Maria's Libraries, and I really appreciate the opportunity Ariel and Eva have given me. It has been a great learning experience both professionally and personally and I would recommend it to every newly graduated BA student out there! I definitely intend on coming back when the new library is constructed :).

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blogpost, and that you will keep supporting Maria's Libraries in the future!


Daily Visitors

Ruth Musavi
"The library has improved a lot, people know the library now and they come here to get books. It's good!"

Daily Visitors

Sneaked into the adult reading section to read one of the textbooks.

Daily Visitors

Paul Okumu Echakara
"This is one of the most vital libraries in Busia district, I want to say that it is a learning tool that encourages learning spirit to small pupils at the primary level and it has also helped students who are doing corresponding studies, to do their research and learning in a condusive environment."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Daily Visitors

Mohammed, Isaac, Breton and Robert
from Busia Township Primary School

Daily Visitors

Edwin Balongo
"Knowledge is power, without a place to read people cannot learn. 
I think the government should assist the library more, because it is key to our community."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Daily visitors series

Hi everyone!

In my last week in Busia I took pictures of regular visitors of the library and asked them to describe what the library means to them in one sentence. You can find the series below! I hope it will give everyone a glimpse into the day-to-day life of the library :)


Daily visitors

Marcos Evua
"The library is a place that's quiet enough to study, 
nothing distracts you from what you need to be doing!"

Daily visitors

Sacha, Desteri, Meshack and Phillis 
With their favorite books

Daily visitors

Hillary Omwando
"The library is such a nice place, it has helped me so much, 
not me alone, but the people around here."

Daily visitors

Peter Midega
"We've been yearning to have something like this for a long time, since we haven't developed a culture of reading in Kenya, this library will encourage that!"

Daily visitors

Willibrod and Bachi
Come in every day to read and write every day.

Lunch at Maria's Farm

Hey everyone!

This past weekend Maria invited all the mama's, Esther and myself over to her banana farm for a celebratory lunch. I expected to be over at her farm for maybe 2 hours, I guess I still haven't learned after 4 months in Kenya, that lunch, it's a whole day affair.

Before heading over to Maria's for lunch, Esther and I visited one of the mama's at her home. She lives close to Maria's, in a typical Kenyan housing project: one long building with 5 doors, each door accessing a one room home. Inside the home, a curtain divides the sleeping area from the living area. Scholastica, the mother we were visiting, lives in one of these homes with her husband and their two children. Scholastica is one of the most dedicated mama's of the project and was excited to find out that her husband was very supportive! He is a picki-picki driver in Busia, and he thinks it is very important that his two daughters, and his wife, get more opportunities in education than he did.

Scholastica, Esther and I headed over to Maria's farm after a little photo shoot at her home and some chai. Of course we were the first ones to arrive, and Maria informed us we would all be going to her church that Saturday, after which we would have a grand lunch. The mothers slowing started trickling in and around 12:30 PM we headed over the Maria's community church. The priest blessed our program and my journey home, and we listened to his sermon which was mostly in Swahili with the occasional English word.

On our way back to the farm the mama asked me lots of questions about my life at home, my work and when I was planning on coming back. I think they finally felt at ease to ask me more personal questions and it was nice to share and have good conversation with the women I have been working with for 3 months.

The lunch was amazing, Maria and her family prepared all the traditional Kenyan dishes I had had over the couple of months: brown and white ugali, pumpkin, chapati, beans, lentils, fish and beef stew, rice, cabbage, sukumawiki, matoke and lots of sodas and beers. It was delicious! Mze, Maria's husband, met all the mama's and spoke to them on the importance of moving forward with their education, to help themselves and their children. I handed out the certificates, now signed by the district commissioner, and a picture of the mama's graduation on Wednesday. Maria brought out the stereo set and we danced to Ugandan and Kenyan music for the rest of the late, hot afternoon.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Celebrating Mama-Mtoto!

Hi everyone!

I just finished cleaning up the library after yesterday's celebration meeting, so I wanted to update you on the great day we had yesterday!

After a lot of preperation from Esther, Maria and I, the big celebration day was finally here! The certificates were printed and signed (just not by the district commissioner, more on that later), the snacks and drinks had arrived, the tent and sign-in booth were set up and the mama's were preparing a dance for the celebration, as we were putting the final touches to the Mama-Mtoto banner. One of the mamas, Lennah, had suggested early on that we all buy T-shirts for the function, to promote the project. The mothers were really enthusiastic, and Maria ended up sponsoring all the mamas for half of the costs, the mamas contributing the other half themselves. Susy and I also bought a T-shirt, and Maria bought a couple of extras for other "friends" of the project.

In the morning, I once again went to the District Commissioner's office, to confirm his presence at our celebration and to have him sign the certificates for the mamas. I had been to his office a couple of times already, but he hadn't been around. This particular morning I had a classic run-in with bureaucracy, waiting for hours for one commissioner, finally meeting his deputy, who sent me to another officer, who eventually confirmed what I had seen coming already: the DC was not in today and would not be coming to our function. Therefore, the mamas received their certificates yesterday, symbolically graduating from the program, but handed them in at the end so I could have them signed today. This morning, the DC apologized for not being able to come to the celebration and signed all the certificates, which reaffirms an old Dutch saying: de aanhouder wint (the one who perseveres wins)!

The celebration got started an hour and a half after the scheduled time, but Maria insisted we were on Kenyan time, and the guests who arrived on time wouldn't mind. Geoffrey Mbweke, a teacher from Busia and the artist who created the cover of the Busia “Wonder of Friendship” book, was the host for our event and he kept everyone entertained throughout the day. Maria spoke of the success of the program and the future library to be built in cooperation with KNLS and Maria's Libraries. Just that morning she received the model of the library and she showed it with great pride to the guests and the press. I gave a small speech on the achievement of the project and the mamas, and my experiences with the Busia Community Library. The mamas read the story from Busia in the 4 languages it was published in and the children from Busia Township, the neigboring school, reflected on some of the classes they had attended at the library.

We finished the meeting with a small speech from the Probation Officer of the District Commissioner's office, the official they had sent after my regular visits to other offices. It was pretty hilarious to see how he tried to connect his line of work to the library, but in the end he concluded that illiteracy and crime go hand in hand, and therefore, the library was a great help to his efforts to rehabilitate people into the community. He handed out the certificates to the mama's and we were invited by Geoffrey to enjoy the pillaw and soda's Maria had provided for everyone!

I think we all had a great day and the mama's were all very proud and excited that they were the ones being celebrated. They loved being graduates and they wore their t-shirts with pride. But, this wasn't the last time we all saw each other! We have a visit planned to Maria's farm this coming Saturday and most of the mamas will come to the computer class on Monday! So thankfully, we didn't have to say goodbye just yet :).

I will update you on both events in the coming days, writing some of my last blog posts before I finish my work for Maria's Libraries and trade Busia in for Rotterdam in just two short weeks!


Monday, October 3, 2011

Another computer lesson and home visit

Just a quick update from Busia: today Katie and I taught another computer class and I went on a home visit across from the library, one of the mama's literally lives 20 meters from the library. Coming Wednesday is the celebration meeting, so more updates then. Here are some pictures of today, enjoy :)