Leading a non-profit that supports village libraries is a lot of work!

I like to share parts of my life with you, readers, but mostly I write to share stuff with my future self.  As you may know, I started back in 2001 and continue to direct a small non-profit Friends of African Village Libraries.  FAVL currently supports 34 libraries in Burkina Faso (though three have been closed for many months now because of issues with the mayor’s offices, and we are struggling to have them re-opened).  Our director in Burkina Faso is Sanou Dounko, an amazing country director who started as a village librarian.  We also support three libraries 3 in Ghana (under the able management of Paul Ayutoliya), and the Kitengesa Community Library in Uganda (shout-out to our dear colleague Kate Parry to whom we wish a full recovery) as well as the Uganda Community Library Association.

Anyway, work for me guiding our Burkina Faso and Ghana programs was piling up, so I had to take a day off from the university and get things right.

  • Had to take a difficult decision and not renew contract of one of our program officers.  That meant many emails with our staff and partners at Catholic Relief Services in Burkina Faso.  We are looking forward to working with them to recruit an excellent replacement.
  • Finished a draft and did corrections to our monthly “local” newsletter for librarians and partners in Burkina, Echos des Bibliothèques.  Started a draft for the March edition.
  • Authorized Paul in Ghana to buy a new motorcycle.  How could I not after he went to the market, took pictures of all the motorcycles available, sent me price list and key features?
  • DLG and MK boxes booksWorked with Deb Garvey, FAVL treasurer, to get another box of books sent to Burkina Faso.  Over the past couple months, Deb and I have shipped eight boxes of books (a couple to Ghana – great books donated by network of friends of Sue Frey, and some extremely high quality French books coming from the Peninsula French international School parents and librarian).  Of course, when these books arrive, in the Ghana case, the customs agent at the post office wanted payment of about $200!  So that involved letters, mobilization of some key community members… got the payment down to $5 to release the books.  In Burkina , by contrast, we have never been hassled by customs agents.
  • Some friends of FAVL in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina, approached us to organize a reading camp in a local school.  We decided this might be a good opportunity for training reinforcement for the staff, so we have agreed, and I spent an hour working with Dounko to develop a plan for having a good number of staff participate in the reading camp, and learn new “animation” techniques.
  • Worked with FAVL intern yesterday (the great Maria Khouri-Haddad), to bring Burkina accounts up to date, and continued that today.  Accounting is very time-consuming, but absolutely necessary.  We pretty much put every transaction into our Quickbooks software… 13 years of expenses!
  • Maria also helped us develop some Algerian short stories for reproduction for use in library reading clubs, along with promotional posters.  So I finalized those today and sent off to Burkina.
  • We have eight staff in Burkina, and they all report regularly to Dounko and copy me.  I try to read their daily reports and occasional longer reports, and send back feedback and encouragement.  That is the part of the job I love!  They all come from very humble roots… first generation to get educated, first generation to have “office” jobs, first time to be using computers, first time to write a report, first tie to offer “constructive criticism”… watching their skills evolve over the years is fascinating.  I like to say that they can all skin and gut a pig, or boil, pluck and prepare a chicken… or grind corn into cornmeal, or ferment mash and make homemade beer, or walk into a forest and make a chair… and now they are sitting in front of Microsoft Publisher.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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