Mara Girls Solar Library Project... We're Getting There!
Is there a better marriage than literacy and light? We'll soon be bringing solar lanterns and a library of children's books to families in the Maasai Mara.
by Barb Mackraz
As many of you know, we've been planning to deliver solar lanterns and a home library to the families of Mara Girls Leadership School in the Maasai Mara. We started the idea this past fall during the COVID-19 quarantine, as the students were all sequestered at home and needed to continue their learning. Even though the students of Mara Girls will be returning to school in January, knock on wood, the solar lighting and home libraries will still be vital and useful to their families and the children at home for years to come.
Many of the families in the Mara live in traditional mud homes with no power or light. It's hard to imagine how anything can get done in the evening in such a dark environment, much less reading and studying. Think about how a simple object like a solar lantern can make such a difference. I honestly don't know why this has not been done before.
In addition, books are such a rarity here, and we are most anxious to learn how young children will respond to having books at home. Will they enjoy them, and will the books help them when they eventually transition to school? We'll soon find out! We're sending a nice collection of children's picture storybooks about East African wildlife, along with a selection of easy readers in English and Kiswahili. The Mara Girls students are also each receiving an encyclopedia that will complement their studies.
All of the books were produced and purchased in Kenya, and chosen in collaboration with local teachers. We bought over 700 books for the project, to share among the 48 families.
The 8th-graders from Mara Girls were at school in December for year-end exams, and while there, they helped the teachers organize the "Solar Library" books and lanterns for delivery. They brought their own Solar Libraries home with them, and for the other families, we'll be delivering out to the homes soon. We experienced a few delays because of mechanical problems with the school's vehicle, the struggles of getting the January school term started, and many uncertainties around COVID-19. But it's not insurmountable, and we're now hopeful that the team will be able to deliver Solar Libraries to families in January.
We'll report back to you as soon as everything happens. In the meantime, thank you to the team on the ground: Mouline and her fellow teachers at Mara Girls, Joel Reyia, and as always, Amos. And thank you to all of you who have supported this initiative!
About the Author
Barb Mackraz is the founder and executive director of OliveSeed.