September 12, 2014

Agriculture for All

There isn’t a single secondary school we have worked with to date that didn’t require its students to grow at least some of the food they ate, as well as help with the livestock they kept (this is true even at Precious Blood, located IN Nairobi).

One of the electives for secondary school students is agriculture, which at some schools, such as St. Patricks Iten and Kisaruni, is one of the most popular subjects. Even at schools where it isn’t as popular of a subject, it is almost always part of the way of life for the students when they are at home. Farming in Kenya, where possible, is always practiced (except for some tribes along the coast and bordering Somalia, where it is considered against Islam to save grain, explained very well in Nina Munks book The Idealist).

Thus, agriculture is fundamental to the way of life of a significant portion of Kenyans. In light of this, we have made a concerted effort to research and enhance our book lists pertaining to this subject, making sure this subject is representing in the libraries we donate. Right now, we are aiming to have this list of 25 books (we will be reviewing the selection we have to pick ones we think would directly benefit Kenyans). Seen in photos are some of the books we have selected for our upcoming secondary school library projects at Kisaruni, Oleleshwa, and Starehe.

September 4, 2014

A Constructive Meeting On Construction

Today we met with our architects at Starehe Girls Center to go over the exact location of where the new library will be built, as well as final details on the timelines.

In particular, we wanted to focus on cutting down as few trees as possible (there are a few beautiful old avocado and palm trees that kept creeping into the construction parameters). Then of course, we discussed the uneven terrain (the library is being built on a sloping hill) and questions about what we will find underneath when we dig (rock will drive construction costs up, but cottony black soil is horrible to build on top of).

Soon we will call for tenders, and the construction will finally commence! 

August 26, 2014

Back from the IFLA World Library & Information Conference in Lyon

For 7 days Rita and I were in Lyon, France attending the 80th IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations) General Assembly. This was our first time attending, and turned out to be an incredibly interesting and informative. We were busy listening to lectures, brainstorming with other attendees, and in our spare time generating new ideas and planning ahead for our library program. It was so informative to hear what other groups are doing, especially in Africa with children’s libraries. We came out of the Conference feeling very confident about our library program and our results so far.

August 11, 2014

A Sneak Peak at the New Starehe Library

We are several versions in on our proposed floor plan as everyone’s input is taken into account (this includes size, location, and structure), but here is the working version of the Starehe library plan as of now. It’s quite a technical process that relies on the architectural drawings of the space (in CAD format) before a design layout can be rendered. The exact dimensions of every furniture piece are a must, so that there are no surprises during setup. For the Starehe library, we have several goals for the space; we needed to fit at least 20 bookshelves, seat 100 students, have 16 computer stations, and have a smart board centrally located to conduct class lessons.

August 10, 2014

A New, Modern Library Coming to Starehe Girls Center

We are thrilled to start working on a new library for Starehe Girls Center. This is our first time partnering with MPESA Foundation, where the library is a joint initiative that we are managing. For the past several months, we have been working with MPESA Foundation, the school, and Planning Systems (who manages the Master Plan of the school) to settle on the best location on the school grounds for a library. We considered both renovating an existing space (can be most cost effective, but not always) or building from scratch on new ground. We have decided on the latter, and are now finalizing the architectural drawings and interior layout. This is a process that takes the professional input of architects, interior designers, the school, and of course our Foundation. All the while, we need to remain within the boundaries of the overall budget committed. This can lead to the need for immense creativity. For example, the dimensions of the library we have settled on are considerably larger than originally planned. Thus, we need to make room for those increased costs while not affecting our final budget. We have had a lot of fun looking for ways to do this, and the end result will be, I believe, one of our most beautiful libraries to date. I was able to visit the school for their closing ceremonies before school break (photo above) and can’t wait to start working with the girls when classes resume in one month.