Wungwero Book Foundation (WBF) Malawi
Who we are
The Wungwero Book Foundation is a small nongovernmental organization based in southern Malawi. WBF was started by two professional librarians who happen to be brother-in-laws. Both dreamed of bringing books to the rural areas of Malawi, a task too ambitious for the government to address. In 2008, WBF contacted the African Library Project to see if we could partner with them. We learned we were too small to start the 30-60 libraries at a time that ALP requires.
Undeterred, we reached out to other NGOs in our area that were interested in library development and ended up forming a coalition of organizations to work with the African Library Project. African Library Project Founder, Chris Bradshaw, spent a week with us meeting the leaders of the organizations and visiting potential library sites. Each member of our coalition worked with local schools, community centers and an orphanage to develop their applications. In 2009, we received our first container from ALP!
What daily life is like here
Malawi is a small country, with a nickname, "the warm heart of Africa" referring to the climate and friendly demeanor of our people. Most people live in rural areas and are subsistence farmers. This means they spend their days growing food that will feed their family but not much more. People do not have electricity or running water in their homes and especially women and girls spend a lot of time carrying water, gathering fuel and cooking. People are very poor and it is considered a luxury for children to be able to attend school. Most students had to drop out of school in 2002 due to a severe drought that caused widespread famine in Malawi. We are still recovering from this.
Most people do not read regularly because there is little available to read. Books are rare and little is published in our local languages. Our government is trying to meet the needs of the people by instituting universal primary education, but both teacher and learning materials are in short supply. Students are hungry for reading materials in English as they must pass highly competitive exams conducted in English in order to enter secondary school.
Why we work with the African Library Project
It is very difficult to get books in Malawi. There are no book publishers and new books are not available. Any book is very expensive and out of the price range of most people, three quarters of whom survive on less than $2/day. The African Library Project provides high quality books that our students love. Using their experience of working in other countries, they have developed a system of library development that works. We learned a lot during the process of developing a Memorandum of Understanding with ALP that helped us to understand the entire process and add to it. We also learned a lot about what works best in rural library development in Botswana, Swaziland, Ghana and Lesotho at the ALP Partner Summits in November 2009 and 2011 and are putting it to work in Malawi.
How we work with the African Library Project
Initially, the Wungwero Book Foundation coordinated the first set of applications for our first container, but we discovered we needed more time than we could give to the project with our full time jobs. Now DAPP Malawi, a large established NGO coordinates the application process and WBF provides the teacher-librarian training at DAPP's Teacher Training College. This utilizes our skills perfectly as we also deliver this type of training in our regular jobs.
We do enlist schools to apply and select those that are serious about wanting a library and doing what it takes to support it. When the books arrive, we help unpack the container and sort the boxes. Then we help distribute the books and make sure the libraries get set up in a way that each school will be able to use the books.
Before we connected with the African Library Project, we felt very isolated in our work and dreams, but ALP inspired us to find and mobilize other organizations also interested in library development. Now we are working in a much more collaborative and efficient way to realize our goals.
What we have accomplished with ALP
WBF and our partners have coordinated the establishment or improvement of 219 libraries. Dozens of these library projects applied through the Wungwero Book Foundation. This was a huge leap in what we had been able to accomplish working over many years before.
We've also trained over 200 teacher librarians in library management skills.
Our hopes and wishes
While we are no longer taking the lead in coordinating the shipments with ALP, we do plan to continue the training of student teachers. Once they have been trained, they are eligible to apply for the books for a library when they are placed in their teaching assignments. We are on our way to be an integral part of helping hundreds of small rural libraries take root in Malawi.
How you can help
We sincerely hope you will help us by collecting books and raising the money to send them to us. It means more than we could ever tell you.
Our sincere thanks to the people making it happen
We cannot thank enough the many groups that have sent us books! Thank you African Library Project!
We are also grateful to our partners in Malawi - DAPP Malawi, AYISE, the Malawi Institute of Education, and Help Malawi.
Progress report on our African Library Project
ALP Libraries in Malawi: 219 (July 2014)
Readers reached: 302,000