The Nakivale Community Library Network
Uganda is the largest refugee hosting country in Africa with nearly 1.45 million refugees. More than 100,000 people call the Nakivale Refugee Settlement home—many of whom are children. The people there have escaped from war-torn areas in neighboring countries and thus many arrive with little more than the clothes on their backs.
Among the challenges of living in the settlement is the lack of access to education, or even reading materials. Our CEO, Jim Wolford, learned that first hand when he visited the settlement a few years ago with our friends at Alight (FKA American Refugee Committee). Since then Atomic Data has been on a mission to improve the reading and education resources in Nakivale.
With our initial donation of $100,000 we, Alight, and local partners in Nakivale began implementing the Nakivale Community Library Network (NCLN) project. The goal is to provide easy access and promote significant engagement with native and English language book that are culturally appropriate and of a variety of reading levels. Through this we hope to enhance the capacity of refugees to innovate, create, and solve day to day life challenges through equitable access to information resources and research materials. The hope is also that the NCLN will promote school enrollment and literacy at all ages, and reduce the rates of juvenile delinquency throughout the settlement with free entertainment and constructive recreational activities.
But, in order for all that to happen, the settlement needs some libraries! The NCLN would see the creation of a 50sq. meter central library, and 15 smaller branch libraries placed throughout the settlement. We’re excited to announce that construction on the central library is complete!
Construction of the facility began in early 2019 and continued late into the summer. Now, the central library building is open, library members are being registered, and books are being circulated! So far, half of the library users have been children and they’re enjoying the many storybooks and art materials.
During the week library staff hold storytelling and reading sessions for children. These sessions are aimed at empowering young readers to develop their creativity along with their passion for books. The kids are encouraged to write poems and recite them aloud. Creativity and the arts have long been a way to express emotions in a healthy manner. The children of Nakivale have lived very hard lives and learning to express themselves is helpful to their growth and education. It’s a fundamental tenant of one of the initiatives of the NCLN: writing, illustrating, and printing books. The African Storybook Initiative, whose vision is “open access to picture storybooks in the languages of Africa. For children’s literacy, enjoyment, and imagination.” The books are written, illustrated, and printed locally—contributing to the economy of the region.
This is a really cool project that ensures that stories are told in native languages. We’re seeing a lot of great art coming from the settlement. And, we’re really excited by the progress made on the library network. Hopefully, more branch libraries will open soon and overall we hope the NCLN will contribute to a generation of culture and art in the settlement that will bring hope, inclusivity, and success to the Nakivale Refugee Settlement.