Street Library and Tigo Launch New Community Library

Street Library Ghana, in partnership with national telecom giant, Tigo, has launched a new community street library program in Nyanoa in Eastern Region. Street Library aims to improve literacy among children, and instill a love of reading by providing regular access to books and reading activities.

The approach differs from a mainstream library in that it operates outdoors in a welcoming environment and is run by local volunteers who also engage in outreach activities such as literacy games.

Community libraries are an initiative whereby under-privileged communities partner with street library to form a local children’s library that runs at least twice a week. Partner communities provide volunteers and local support while Street Library Ghana, in partnership with sponsors, provide book chests and train local volunteers in how to run a children’s library.

Friday’s event was an Open Day, organized to generate local interest in the library and register children wishing to attend. With such a big event led by respected members of the community and under the observant gaze of community chiefs and queens, there was no shortage of excitement among the large gathering of local children.

Tigo sponsored the Nyanoah opening day and over 30 staff from the company volunteered and engaged the children in literacy activities and registration formalities. Marking the strongest single community library interest to date, a total of over 500 children were signed up, with yet more expressing interest to join.

Nyanoa, a community of some 2400 people with 1300 children, was chosen for this launch as it had overwhelming local interest and met other criteria identifying it as vulnerable and under-privileged and willing and able to run a community library for the long-term. This certainly seems the case, as enthusiasm and excitement were ubiquitous throughout the crowd of children, parents and other community members.

In front of the gathered community, the day began with children reciting poetry, before moving on to speeches by local leaders, Hayford Siaw, Founder and President of Street Library Ghana, and Deborah Akapko, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager for Tigo. The addresses welcomed the initiative and stressed the importance of education and reading. Several hours of registration and reading activities followed before the formal handover by Street Library Ghana and Tigo to Community leaders, and distribution of a very well-deserved lunch to the children marking a close to the day’s activities.

According to Hayford the day was significant to introduce the trained volunteers and the local Management Committee of the Street Library to the parents and children. He indicated, ‘’Street Library is unique and does not require any expensive buildings but simple open covered space and strong community leadership to keep it thriving’’.

Prior to the event local volunteers selected by the Chief and people came to Street Library’s office in Accra for training on how to run a library and engage children in reading and literacy activities. They also received training on the organization’s child protection policy.

Tigo Corporate Social Responsibility Manager Debora Akapko said Street Library Ghana is one of the social enterprises that they support, under the “TIGO reach for change”, and that they take literacy to a new level in various communities by reaching out to children in vulnerable areas such as those in Nyanoa. ‘’They also motivate the children and encourage them to aspire to greater height in life, and that, being in a rural community does not mean one is not as good as those in the urban areas’’.

A Ghanaian Social Entrepreneur, Hayford Siaw has been selected along Felix Uzor and Sharron Nestor as Playmakers for 2012. The selection by Playing for Change, a non-profit organization founded by Kinnevik-Sweden, supports social entrepreneurs who improve the lives of children and youth. Kinnevik believe that the best way to create a social change is to give the right tools to people who are passionate about their task and who has the entrepreneurial driving force to make a change.

The chosen entrepreneurs call Playmakers; get financial support but also advice and mentoring from a network of employees within the Kinnevik Group of companies. The goal is to help the entrepreneurs build sustainable operations that will have a great social impact. In Ghana, the Kinnevik Group includes, television station Viasat 1, telecom company Tigo, financial institutions Bayport Financial Services and Consumer Finance Company (CFC).

This Friday, out of 900 ideas, they had come down to only four, who got to pitch their ideas live in front of a jury consisting of Obefemi Banibge (CEO and acting GM, Tigo), Charlotte Gustavsson (CEO Viasat1 Ghana), Justice Boahen (CEO, CFC), Kofi Adu-Mensah (Bayport Ghana), Letitia Adu-Ampoma (Integrity manager, Tigo) and Johanna Hallin (Director Strategic Planning, Playing for Change)

Hayford’s idea is Street Library – a solution to bringing mobile libraries to rural communities, promoting literacy and educational curiosity to disadvantaged children. Felix and Sharron’s innovative idea is Sports for Life – a program for promoting water safety and preventing drowning, the number one cause of death among children in Ghana.

According to Hayford Siaw, the street library is a social purpose initiative that aims to foster sustainable social transformation and participation through education. ‘’Literacy is a key component of strategies to support long-term economic and social value creation. As a result, the Street Library aims to be ‘the means’, and not ‘the end’. Particular emphasis will therefore be given to creating a setting that should enable targeted groups (especially children and youth) to acquire skills and interest for the long-term development of their literacy level.’’ He added.