Stories in Igoda Library

Dear Family and Friends,

Just before arriving in Mufindi the “October inch” rains had transformed the brown dormant hills to a light dusting of green. Mounded rows of freshly turned soil are ready for planting. A smattering of newly built brick houses complete with metal roofs appeared on the landscape. Electrical lines finally lead to several Mufindi villages, although hooking up is unaffordable for many. More piki pikis, motorcycles, often with three precariously aboard, are navigating the winding dirt roads. Positive pockets of change can be seen in Mufindi. More families are healthier and have pulled themselves out of crippling poverty.

Since arriving a week and a half ago, we’ve spent all of our time at our first project, Igoda’s Teaching Library. It was seven years ago the African Book Box built this maktaba, the first library in Mufindi District. It’s like greeting an old friend, a little frayed around the edges but with endearing qualities. Refreshing touch ups have given it a new vitality.

Igoda’s teachers and students warmly greeted us with girls curtsying in the Kihehe tribal way. Ruth and I resembled cast members from Little House on the Prairie in our long serviceable skirts. Forty children, half a class of Standard (Grade) 2, ran to the open blue door, the sun on expectant faces, gently jostling as they entered the library. Two lines of children’s shoes stretched across the cement floor. This year there were fewer shabby shoes and tattered uniforms. The children sat on large round mats woven by the women’s cooperative from the village of Ikaning’ombe.

A cheerful KARIBUNI or WELCOME from Yusto Chumi, Igoda’s outstanding librarian, embraced earnest faces. Mama Lootie (“R”s become “L”s on Swahili tongues) and Mama Annie were asked to introduce themselves. It was time to share the stories we’d prepared. They were ready – eager, attentive, quietly anticipating.

Ruth told the story of The Carrot Seed using delightful flannel - board characters, a magnifying glass to see the seeds, a bunch of freshly pulled carrots and a slice of carrot for each child. The lesson ended with a class going outside to plant a package of carrot seeds.

Kuku Mdogu or Little Hen ( adapted from the Little Red Hen) is the “big book” Liz Priestman, Elaine Olafson and I created this year. The children loved Elaine’s captivating illustrations. The story unfolds as this little hen from a Tanzanian village plants maize which is eventually harvested, given to the fundi to grind into flour and finally to the cooking mamas to make into ugali (a dietary staple resembling sticky mashed potatoes). Using stick puppets and local materials such as recently harvested maize and baskets, a dramatization of the story followed with groups of children playing various animals calling out “Not I” when the hen asked for help throughout the story.

Back and forth from English to Kiswahili with each class as Yusto translated with an exuberant flourish. The children are taking steps along the way to learn English when Yusto nurtures their interest through the power of the story. Memorable learning experiences taking place in Igoda’s Maktaba, a library that many of you have helped through your interest and support.

Asante – Thank you!