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Lesotho libraries: a place to gather and read

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First visit 2

ALP is working to send a container of books to Lesotho this fall to create 35 new libraries.  We still need Book Drive Organizers, who can complete a book drive by September 1.  Click here to find out what’s involved and how to sign up.  As you will read below, two ALP volunteers recently visited Lesotho and saw how libraries are working in the community and what more is needed.

ALP’s Lesotho Liaison, Amy Jo Carson, and I recently traveled to Lesotho.  Our first stop was Malealea, a beautiful village in the Mafeteng District of Lesotho. Its enchanting mountainous views are delightful to tourists and natives alike. Unfortunately, like the majority of rural inhabitants, the people of Malealea often do not have access to educational supplies or even an education.

The African Library Project and African Storybook are two organizations that are working to increase literacy rates through access to English books in the region. While we were in Malealea, we met with the director of the Malealea Trust, Ntate Tello; a Peace Corps Volunteer named James; Marian of the African Storybook organization; and teachers from surrounding villages. Both the teachers and the director of the trust worried about the lack of infrastructure and funding for the upkeep of their libraries and schools. They were enthused about ALP’s initiatives and yearned for even more books and libraries.

We also visited two libraries during our short stay. One was African Library Project’s first library ever. It was being used not only as a library but also as a community center. Bo-ausi, young unmarried women, were sewing sanitary pads and bags to sell throughout the area. Murals of Bo-m’e, married women, dancing in seshoeshoe, traditional Sotho dress, were painted upon the wall, and books were stacked on several small shelves.

This library is a place where people of all ages can play, work, and read together. Social engagement like this is vital in order to establish a reading culture.  And books are needed to improve literacy and strengthen students’ education.

Ashley Kahn, July 2017