Books for Busia

Monday, November 06, 2006

Some Library Pics

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Thanks, and more info

Below you'll find the Mission Statement written by the Busia Community Library's volunteer staff, with help from Eva, as well as Eva's appeal for ideas, books, and financial help for this project. We have already received donations from Columbia University's John Jay Library, the Institute of French Studies at NYU, and lots of individuals, including staff and students at Southern Maine Community College. Apparently, the most urgent need is for funds to get books and supplies to the library, but books, supplies, and ideas are still welcome. If you'd like to just pack up a box of books and send them yourself, or appeal to your local library, bookstore, or university, please email me for more information on where and how to send your boxes! And, if you're going to East Africa anytime in the near future, let us know if you can bring some books with you and post them from there!

Mission Statement and Note from Eva

To Whom It May Concern:

The newly established Busia Community Library in Busia, Kenya held its launch on April 4, 2006. Since then, the library has already been frequently visited by members of the community, especially children. The library, however, remains with many challenges to overcome if it is to be a real resource for the community. Notably, the library lacks books. While we are fundraising for the library on several different fronts, this particular appeal is for books, audio visual supplies, and/or related costs. Specifically, we are requesting funds to aid in shipping these supplies from the US to Kenya. Any help you could give us would be much appreciated. The attached document is a synopsis of the goals and importance of the library to Busia.

Thank you for your time and consideration. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at I am currently working at Innovations for Poverty Action, associated with MIT’s Poverty Action Lab in Busia and have offered to be a contact between potential donors in the US and the library. If you would like to speak with the director of the library, please call Mrs. Maria Wafula at: (+255) (0) 734 994337. Please note this is a Kenyan cell phone and it is sometimes difficult to get through from America.

On a personal note, one thing that has particularly struck me as I have helped those who are trying to set up this library is how difficult this is to organize from here. Ironically, because there is no place in Busia to obtain information cheaply (the internet café has been a great help to me because I can afford to use it), the library itself is having a great deal of trouble finding the information it needs to find grants. The committed staff of volunteers has been working full time to remedy this deficit. They literally (and embarrassingly) burst into song praising God for the small amount of information I find, mostly through people in the States. The entire staff would like to see the day when they can access this and other information on their own.


Eva Kaplan

Busia Town, in Busia District of Kenya’s rural Western Province, is located on the border of Kenya and Uganda. The town is situated on the major trucking route between Mombasa, Nairobi and Kampala. As is often the case with border towns on major trucking routes, Busia is a community with vibrant commerce—not all of it legal. The town, of about 60,000 people, is an urban center for Western Province. Across the border is Busia, Uganda. Busia, Uganda is a similarly sized town and again is considered an urban center for the area. The nearest university is Maseno University, which is roughly two hours away by public transport. In Busia Town, there is a gym, a Poly-Technic Institute and two internet cafes. The prices of all of these places are prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of the population.

Busia Community Library strives to service the larger community of Busia—this includes not only Busia, Kenya, but the entire district of Busia and the neighboring district of Teso, as well as Busia, Uganda. This would put the population it services at well over 1,000,000 people . The library is an ongoing project by Family Support Services (FASSCO), a community based organization (CBO) comprised of volunteer professionals from many fields. FASSCO is running the project under the auspices of Kenya National Library Services (KNLS). KNLS has donated a plot of land for the library to build on and a very small amount of books (currently, the library is housed in a small room rented at the expense of the volunteers). In addition, KNLS has offered to train the library’s staff provided the library can cover all expenses related to training (accommodation, travel, etc.).

Goals of the Library
Before the Busia Community Library, there was no public or community library in Busia District. The nearest public library is 120 km away in Kakamega and the nearest community library is in Ukwala, Siaya District 40 km away. Goals of the library include the following:

1. Busia Community Library would like to provide what would be the only space outside of schools for the community to find books and information.
2. The literacy rates in Busia have been decreasing due to increased school drop-out rates. The library would take an active role in reversing this trend through community outreach programs. FASSCO is already involved in a number of community outreach programs, including working with groups of low-income women to develop safe, legal income generating activities.
3. There are currently no community spaces in Busia. Because of its status as a border town on a major trucking route, there is a great deal of drug use, sex work, and illicit trade. Home is often an unsafe place for kids to be. For example, a shocking percentage of women are involved in illicit chang’aa (alcohol) brewing, so their one room houses become bars and/or brothels and kids have no place to go but the streets to avoid being part of this scene. Busia Community Library would be a safe place for kids to congregate. Indeed, they have already begun doing so, sitting on the floor and sharing the books between them.

The library is working according to short, medium and long term goals:

0-3 years (2006-2009)
• The library will be a fully equipped community library with well-stocked stacks, internet access, and a cultural center for kids.
• This requires equipment including tables, chairs, books, bookshelves, audio visual material and computers as well as the construction of a building to house the library in Busia Town. All librarians will be fully trained in collaboration with KNLS.

3- 5 years (2010- 2015)
• The library will be a full-fledged Public Library serving all of Busia District.

5 years and beyond
• There will be community libraries in all towns in Busia District, which will be served by the main public library in Busia Town.
• The library will be self- sustaining.


Funding will be provided by well-wishers in the community. In addition, the library is in the process of applying for grants through the British Council, Book Aid International, Computer Aid International, the Carnegie Corporation, the Open Society Institute, Libraries for Africa, Oprah's Angel Foundation, as well as several universities, companies, and public libraries in the United States. The library staff of volunteers is continuing to seek out additional sources of funding.

Back to top