African Library Project

After a Decade, the Damanko Library Lives

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NOT A SINGLE BOOK resides in the Damanko School library in Damanko, Ghana. For ten years, the community has hoped for the library to swap its dust for books, but due to disuse, the vacant library has fallen into disrepair—until Peace Corps volunteer Kristi Moses created the Damanko School Library Project. It will improve the library’s infrastructure and provide learning materials for students and teachers.

When Kristi, an anthropologist, first arrived at her worksite in September 2010, she discovered that Damanko School, a local junior high, was in desperate need of a functioning library. The teachers do not have enough motivational resources to supplement their teaching, and the students have very few books to read. “Many students have a low reading level because they have little to practice with. Teachers tire of the constant lack of resources for teaching and have poor motivation,” she said.

Last fall, Kristi visited New Bern High School in her hometown in North Carolina to share her Peace Corps experience with students. Several classes became very interested in her project. Deirdre Kiernan, an English teacher and faculty advisor for the school's Interact Club, decided to create a partnership with Kristi. Kristi’s parents, Diane and Dan Moses, joined Deirdre to head the book drive for her project, and the Rotary Club is helping the Interact Club raise the $500 needed for the library.

Kristi realized that additional assistance was needed to supply the library with books, so she contacted the African Library Project. Once Interact Club made arrangements with ALP, the students quickly took charge of the book drive and have been collecting books for grades kindergarten through junior high. They expect to reach their April 21st deadline.

Taking special care to ensure that her project will be a sustainable success, Kristi said, “It is really a delicate balance.  Everything has to be set up just right, or the library system will crumble as soon as a volunteer leaves.” A community needs to be actively involved for a project to thrive, so she approached the locals.

Inspired by Kristi’s passion and her project, several individuals who attended her meeting organized a second meeting with the village's chief and elders on their own initiative, and each leader even pledged a certain amount of cash from their respective communities. “The community has responded quite positively,” she said. “To my surprise, they spent a great deal of time brainstorming solutions.”

Kristi finds working with young people very rewarding. “There are so many special people in these schools who deserve every opportunity in life,” she said. When she arrived to Damanko, she loaned a variety of books from the Peace Corps collection to Precious, a local student who became a big fan of the Harry Potter series and is a voracious reader—yet has few books to read. But soon this will change.

Renovation to the library will begin this month, and carpenters have already begun building new windows. Once the renovation is complete, the students themselves will paint the room, and organize the books when they arrive.  Then, Precious and her fellow students will finally have a library.

April, 2012