Monday, November 30, 2009

Bringing Books to Nwadjahane

We inaugurated the first community lending library in Nwadjahane on Wednesday, Nov. 25, greeted joyfully by women in colorful capulanas ululating and dancing in front of a large welcoming crowd of around 150 men, women, and children. I read The Little Red Hen to a very receptive audience but it was Lehla who stole the show, receiving huge belly laughs for her delightful dramatization of a library user and her in depth interpretation of a gossipy goose, a vain cat, and lazy, good for nothing dog! The audience mimicked her every step and motion and even actions which were not part of the scenario—and filled the air with honks, squaws, meows, and barking. Their songs of gratitude and welcome overwhelmed us and we felt very special indeed.

The leader of the village stood up afterwards and spoke of the importance of this project—how it would expand children’s minds and better prepare them for school and how important the program is for adults as well. Eleven adults (six women and five men) signed up as the first library users, “Rede de Amigos da Leitura” (Friends of Reading Network), and took with them ten books each in the “bibliosacolas” (bookbags) to their homes to read themselves, to their own children, and to neighboring children. After a week they can exchange the books for ten more. The photos of people reading are worth a hundred words. For more photos, please see the album Nwadjahane Inauguration on our Facebook page, Books for Kids Africa.

It is hard to describe just how important this project is…at times it has seemed so small but a visit to a community like Nwadjahane highlights the far-reaching impact this simple project can have. We could practically feel the pride and joy with which people welcomed the project, chose books to read, and signed up to take books to their homes. It was clear that people hunger for knowledge and though schools are instrumental and crucial for a community’s growth, self-education through a community lending library has the potential to dramatically change people’s lives.

Evidence of potential connections were everywhere: women sitting together while one women read out loud and others commented and pointed to pictures, a serious man with glasses sitting quietly and reading non-stop for the entire hour we were there, children laughing and showing each other pictures from the stories they were reading, and others struggling with what appeared dogged determination to read, sounding out each word slowly and cautiously. What joy to have the opportunity to participate in such a wonderful undertaking!!

It feels right that we initiated the first Friends of Reading Network in the birthplace of Eduardo Mondlane, the revolutionary hero who believed that education was the key to development and nation-building. To parphrase him when he cryptically spoke to the people of Mozambique during the fight for independence: We are no chickens. We are eagles. Spread your wings and fly!

A special thanks to Nyeleti and Janet Mondlane, Eduardo Mondlane’s daughter and wife, for providing lodging and a lovely lunch and breakfast, to Maria and Arlindo and all their family (Anita, Artemisia) who served as guides to the community for us and cooked such wonderful local cuisine, to Sonia who volunteered to serve as the first facilitator, to all the community leaders, to the hundreds of children and mothers and fathers who welcomed us with open arms, and to sweet little Alfonso whose laughter was so contagious! And of course, to my delightful colleague and traveling companion, Lehla Eldridge for accompanying me and so fully embracing the project in every way!


  1. What a wonderful, wonderful happening! My congratulations to all and especially to you, Mary Jo, Nyeleti and Janet. May we keep spreading our wings and reading outloud all over the world!

    Sherry in Guatemala

  2. Thank you Sherry! I am delighted you were the first to comment. I am new to blogging and it's wonderful to know a good friend, and fellow lover of books, is following our adventures here! Keep in touch!