NCLN Library

Changemakers 365 - Project Stories

March 01, 2021 Scott Evangelist

What does $500 worth of change look like? More than you’d think. It looks like art supplies for kids who need a safe place to wait while their siblings and parents receive therapy for malnutrition. It looks like a fresh coat of paint for refugee camp buildings, brightening everyone’s day.

In November 2020, Atomic Data staff came together to choose 30 ideas to be executed at the Atomic/Alight-constructed library in the Nakivale Refugee Settlement of Uganda, Africa. Throughout December and January, staff on the ground began executing and documenting these projects. As projects are completed we’ll be sharing photos and stories about them here.

DAY 1 – Kids Corner

Many children in the Nakivale settlement do not attend school due to high fees, overcrowding, and long travel distances. This educational barrier results in increased early pregnancy/marriage, lack of employment opportunity, financial instability, and a host of other concerns. Recognizing this significant gap, Atomic Data and Alight recently constructed a Children’s Learning Center adjacent to the main library structure. The Center was in need of kid-specific activities and materials to make the children feel welcome and provide relevant programming. We kicked things off by purchasing items like educational board games, toys, craft supplies, and age-specific books. The Kids Corner will give them a safe, stable, and exciting place to spend their day while being exposed to reading at an early age and without cost to the parents.

DAY 2 – Music Exposure

The library is not only focused on reading. By providing a wide array of activities and programming, the staff are able to encourage more frequent visits to the library and spark interest in individuals. Today the staff have purchased a set of drums, a long drum (also known as an Engalabi), ankle bells, shakers, tube fiddles, rattles, flutes, pianos and a wooden Zither. In addition to supporting local instrument craftsmen, these purchases will be used in the formation of drama and musical groups at the library and within the larger Nakivale community.

DAY 3 – Art Education

In a settlement populated by scarred, traumatized individuals, providing means by which to heal goes well beyond essentials like safety, a roof, water, and food. Things like art can provide therapy, opportunity, enjoyment, freedom of expression, and so much more. Art also enables the displaced residents to decide for themselves how their homes and surroundings will look; instead of an outside organization. You can see the creativity abound in Nakivale; from the Art Center adjacent the Library building, to Opportunigee, a non-profit providing space and programming to support artists. As part of the library programming we identified a need for more materials around art education and training, so we began by purchasing 50 copies of several ‘How To Draw Books’. Additional art-related projects will include library beautification and competitions.

DAY 4 – Kids Fiesta/Christmas Party

To celebrate a difficult year in an already difficult environment and to spread some much needed joy to regular library visitors, the library staff held a kid’s fiesta. There the children danced, sang, read aloud, and held a costume contest.

DAY 7 – Instruments for Adults

The talents of Nakivale’s residents so often goes untapped. That’s why we wanted to extend Library programming beyond literacy. Having already purchased instruments for the children’s library, next we set out to purchase locally made instruments for the adult library users. Here you can see a group of visitors gathering to try their hands at the instruments and dance to the music. These instruments will be also be used for plays and acting.

DAY 8 – COVID Precautions

When finding clean water, sanitary toilets, and basic healthcare are daily struggles, acquiring and properly using PPE falls far behind other priorities. Plus with supply chain disruptions and understaffing, finding and distributing materials is only more challenging. To help, the library staff held PPE training sessions to educate on social distancing practices, hygiene, and mask wearing. They also purchased and have been distributing hundreds of locally-made masks to visitors who often cannot afford their own.

DAY 9 and 10 – Football for All

Given the lack of facilities for sports and recreation in the camp, library staff first set out to assess the feasibility and sustainability of creating a football team. After their grassroots investigation, the team was able to begin by purchasing equipment and holding coaching sessions to develop a young girls football club.

DAY 11 – Debate Competitions

For those residents that have mastered literacy and are looking for further challenges and activities in their daily lives, staff are developing ideas like debate teams and competitions. In the first competition, the topic was “Has technology changed our reading habits”. A spirited debate was had and the winning team received a customized notebook/journal.

DAY 12 – NakiFM

The Nakivale settlement is vast, spanning 185 square kilometers/71 square miles. These large distances mean many residents are unfamiliar with the library and the services they can take advantage of. To spread the word, library staff organized an interview on local radio station NakiFM. As part of this effort, the team also drove around the settlement announcing the library through a PA system. The following day, the library was overwhelmed with 250 new visitors. Mostly children, they arrived in large groups from far away villages like Ruhoko, Misyera and Juru.  This small initiative was able to significantly extend the reach of the library to children who would have otherwise not known about it.