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Mathare North library


Basic Information

The library is a MYSA run library, and is sponsored by Sara Lee, who not only pay the rent on the library building, but also pay for the electricity and refurbishment of the library. More recently they are paying for two staff members, and for another staff member to attend Kenya School of Professional Studies to study for a diploma and certificate in library and information skills.

The library unofficially opened in November 2003.
Then in February 2004 it was officially opened by Children's author Beverley Naidoo.
The library was at first only one room for children.
Soon the adults decided they also needed a library, so the MYSA office next door was converted into an adults library.
When first open, this library was only for members of MYSA.
Library stock initially came from the British Royal Air Force (RAF). Now stock comes from the UK and locally.


Membership, Staffing and Stock

UPDATED May 2008!!

The library is open to everyone and is free.
The library currently has a membership of 5,090. The following institutes use the library: 40 primary schools, 36 secondary schools, 29 colleges/universities.
In the library there are two members of the staff paid an allowance by Sara Lee


Stock- 3821 total (May 2008)


Drama Group News. We now have a junior league drama group who are following in the footsteps of the senior group! They are being trained by Stephen and Charles.

Developing Drama group to express thier views and learn more about their rights as children


October 2007

New drama band and acting with puppets in progress to pass on information on children's rights

Computer classes going well as MYSA donated some computers

Dubbing/ recording of book tapes is still progressing

Book reading club and art club in progress

Library members having practical education by visiting local factories (Sara Lee, Coco Cola etc)

Donations- October 2007

17 piece encyclopaedia from KidsLibs Trust

500 pairs of shoes and footballs from Sara Lee to go to neighbouring schools

3 cartons of sanitary pads for needy beniaficiaries who cannot afford to buy thier own.

42 books from KidsLibs Trust


December 2008

Membership: total 5,546.

Attendence in November:

Adult men: 319

Adult ladies: 366

boys: 430

girls: 514

We are being used by 33 different primary schools, 32 different secnodary schools, amd 26 further education institutes.

'BookLab' with ISK

'BookLab' is our Bookclub! 6 of our users go to ISK (they send a bus for us!) to study and interact with 6 ISK students. We look at books chosen by KidsLibs in conjunction with ISK! We have looked at 'The Outsiders' by S.E. Hinton, where we discussed gangs and watched the movie of the book. We have just looked at 'City of Ember' by Jeanne DePrau (Dec 6th 08)


Wazee Power!

We have a 70 year old man coming to the library to talk to children about issues relating to African Countries leadership.

Computer classes

These have resumed, but we have real trouble with maintaining the computers in working order, du eot power spikes etc. We DESPERATELY need some UPS's.

Drama Groups

The Drama group are working on the theme of chldren's rights. We also have a Hip hop group, which includes a girl power rap group! Have a look at some of the poems we perform on the activities page!



May 08

Drama Group

Charles has been very busy with the drama group, and has written several new poems which the children have performed at various International schools (Peponi house, ISK). See Activities page for scripts.. they are SO good!


We DESPERATELY need a new carpet/ carpet tiles in the chldren's library. It is now now only unsightly, but is positively dangerous, having holes in it which children can trip over.

Achievements May 08

* Increase in centre users

* New Homework groups started

* Drama groups dealing with the topic of Children's Rights..


* Computer skills classes have had to stop, as computers are all damaged

* Power spikes and troughs responsi- ble for computer damage

* Typewriter not working properly, so unable to catalogue new stock

*Printer also not working properly, so late reports



100 copies of Reach magazine from East African Magazine in conjunction with Uchumi and Nakumatt



February 2008

Since the post election violence in December and January 2007-8 Mathare North centre has seen a few changes in library use.

Area leaders have been using the library premises for meeting to discuss shunning violence.

Beneficiaries of the library are now attending again, as things have calmed down

Achievements- February 2008

We have introduced Hip Hop as part of the drama group!

Bookclub partnership with ISK is still under discussion!

Drama band and acting with puppets in progress to pass information on children's rights

Drama groups also working on expressing their views and learning about children's rights and abuses.

We received 593 books from KidsLibs Trust stock from Canada and UK (Sara Lee UK donation)

Challenges February 2008

Computer damage due to power outs

Late reports due to poor printer

Cant use reading room or adults room when there is no power

Cannot add new stock to shelves as the typewriter is poor

Need stock on:- Child abuse and childrens rights, Cancer,community communication, drama and poverty.

Cleaning materials

Solutions February 2008- UPDATED!

Get a new printer and cartridges

need standby lights or lights with back up power batteries

need back up battery for computers and.or UPS

Need a new typewriter

Ask The Nation to donate more newspapers

Creative Writing Classes at Mathare North 2007- completed!

article by Susan Phillips

Trading Fives," an Adventure in Poetry and Art

Thirteen boys and girls from the Mathare North creative writing club and 13 girls from the Girls Art and Leadership group at International School of Kenya worked together over a period of four Saturday afternoons in September and October to write poems, draw pictures, share their ideas, and select their best work to be included in a book.

Two handmade copies of the book, including poetry and artwork from every participant, will be given to the Mathare North and ISK libraries soon, and the participants hope to celebrate their achievements with a book launch party. The book is titled "Trading Fives," because all of the poems are five lines long, and every piece of writing and art included represents an exchange of ideas, words, enthusiasm and support.

The group met at the ISK arts center. The first meeting started off with an ice-breaking game and setting up pairs of students who would work together for the rest of the project. Then everyone took part in a silly drawing exercise called "blind contour drawing." For this, each child drew a picture of his partner. But the rules were strict: You could not look down at what you were drawing, and you could not lift your pen off the paper until you were finished. The results? If you squint, you might think of Picasso.

Finally, the children interviewed each other and used the results to write five-line poems called cinquains. Here is one that will be included in the book, it's by Junior Kimeu, 12, from Mathare North, about his partner Aliya Chaudhry,10, from ISK.


Tall, funny
Reading, painting, writing
Talking to her friends

In subsequent meetings, participants wrote more cinquains, sometimes working in pairs, and sometimes individually. The poetry topics were wide-ranging - for instance, one session was devoted to shoes, boots and sandals - and the organizers provided a whole heap of sneakers, booties, flip-flops, high heels etc. to get the children's imaginations going. Before writing, the group talked about how shoes pick up tell-tale signs of the lives their owners lead - scuff marks, worn soles, creases. The writers also brainstormed about how it might feel to be a shoe, and generated a huge list of words having to do with shoes, walking, running, etc.

The final session was a mad rush, as the pairs picked their favorite poems and then set about making plates of their illustrations in order to produce two identical copies of the art for the handmade books. Two extra helpers, printmaker Chris kinanjui and Angela Wangeru gave invaluable support as the children figured out the printmaking process and rushed to complete two good prints before it was time to go.

It was great to see the children work together and gain confidence in their writing and their art. And it would not have been possible without help from four ISK high school students, Laura Hutchinson, Yasmin Azli, Manon Verchot and Bryonny Bidder, who helped set up for each session and then circulated around the room, providing encouragement and the occasional nudge.

Now, it is up to the organizers - Susan Phillips, who has been working with the Mathare North creative writing group, and Jane Elleby


an art teacher at ISK who leads the Girls Art and Leadership group - to sit down with the high school helpers and put the books together in their final form.







Anne, Oct 2005 MVH,Sept 2005