For the last few years, Tanzania Development Support has been working to transform the Madaraka Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center (LCRC) from just a building into a true 21st Century center for learning. We are happy to report that thanks to your support, that vision is closer to reality than ever before. We are also pleased to share that our other projects have also seen positive momentum thanks to the support of our loyal donors in 2019.
In May, more than 5,000 books written by East African authors were delivered to the Madaraka Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center (LCRC) in Nyegina, a modern facility that was completed in 2016 and funded by TDS. The collection was carefully curated by a Tanzanian NGO that specializes in building a reading culture. The books are written by East African authors, published in Tanzania and Kenya, and were chosen to maximize the benefit to the children, parents, and communities in the surrounding villages, including more than 3,000 books in Swahili. The LCRC now boasts the largest collection of books in Kiswahili of any private community library in the entire country!
The LCRC also saw a technological boost with the installation of a software called Koha. The free open-source library management system is making it easier for staff and volunteers at the library to track circulation and membership. The reporting features of the software will also improve our ability to monitor the progress of outreach efforts and guide future book purchases.
A month later, 15 volunteers climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro (tallest peak in Africa) to raise awareness and money to support the LCRC. Included in the group were two students (Miriam and Romara) and their teacher (Vitales) that attend Nyegina Secondary School, a school in the village where the LCRC is located. The three led the rest of us up the mountain and were truly inspiring. The proceeds raised through the climb were able to fund the LCRC’s first full-time librarian!
During that same trip, we had a chance to meet with all the teachers and administrators involved in our 4H
Career Pathways program to discuss their successes and challenges. Teachers and headmasters shared that they were beginning to see students making connections between the lessons they are learning in the classroom and the practical exercises in the after school clubs. We also learned that pregnancies in all three participating secondary schools were down in consecutive years!
In August, Safe Water Mugango, a women’s-owned business that manufactures low-cost ceramic water filters, received their biggest single sale to date and have seen an overall increase in business throughout the year. Most of the filters purchased this year have been placed in schools and libraries in the Mara region, ensuring that hundreds of students now have a guaranteed source of clean drinking water while they are at school.
This year also saw the first cohort of ten Willmann Scholars begin Form One at Nyegina Secondary. The new scholarship program was launched this year and focuses on providing a quality learning environment for the Mara region’s most gifted girls. Qualifying girls have scored in the first division (best scores) of the national exam taken at graduation from primary school. In addition to academic excellence, girls are also interviewed by a committee of community leaders and must demonstrate good character and a desire to continue their academic success. At the end of their first year, we are proud to say that all ten girls are in good academic standing, and one of them scored top marks for all girls in their grade!
Most recently, our local partners at UMABU and Lake Victoria Disability Center completed the construction of a transmission relay tower. The tower now provides a reliable internet connection that links the LCRC to a tremendous amount of free educational materials and online learning tools.
With all the progress made transforming the LCRC into a 21st Century center for learning, we have an ambitious agenda to promote the library in the communities throughout the Mara region and beyond. Many of the families in the villages surrounding Nyegina have never had a chance to visit a library and have yet to develop a culture of reading.
In 2020, we plan to work with the LCRC staff to begin major outreach programs that will bring people to the library and the library to the villages. This will involve providing students and parents with a free one-year membership to the library in return for them serving as ambassadors to their villages. They will be able to use their membership to check out books and take them back to their homes and read them with children and other adults that are unable to read. The head librarian will also be starting a Boda-Boda Book-Mobile (boda-boda is a motorcycle taxi in Tanzania), where he will take books to different villages and read them with children and deliver books to elders in the village.
As you can see, there are many things for us to be excited about from 2019 and into 2020. We know that you understand the impact that educational resources like books, the internet, and well-trained teachers can have on the lives of youth. Thank you again for your loyal support of our mission. Your gifts to TDS are making a profound difference in the lives of these girls and boys. Please continue to keep TDS and the families of the Mara region in your thoughts in the new year.
To donate to our ambitious goals and outreach efforts in 2020, visit our everyday giving page.