Lachlan Edwards enjoys The Dangerous Book for Boys.

Lachlan Edwards from Figtree Anglican near Wollongong, south of Sydney Anne Lim

Imagine the excitement and wonder of children at a school in Kenya when they first see the shelves of colourful books sent to them as a ready-made library by a church in Australia. Inside a 6-metre shipping container they will find an Aladdin’s cave of treasures: on the left are non-fiction books offering windows into their world, while on the right are fiction books of all kinds to feed their imaginations.

It is this vision of Kenyan children discovering the joy of reading that fired up Figtree Anglican Church near Wollongong, south of Sydney, to partner with Nairobi Chapel in the Kenyan capital in a project called Angaza (Swahili for enlighten) Beyond.

His dream [was] to put books into the hands of every child in Nairobi and see them released from poverty through education.

Twelve months ago the 800 members of the church were inspired by a visiting speaker, Oscar Muriu, senior pastor of Nairobi Chapel, who told them of his dream to put books into the hands of every child in Nairobi and see them released from poverty through education.

 

The statistics he quoted were frightening. Only 2 per cent of schools in Kenya had a library and only half of children in year 2 could read a single written word.

“Oscar said the issue they’ve got, in Nairobi particularly, is there are no books,” says Lachlan Edwards, the energetic Outreach and Evangelism Director at Figtree Anglican.

“There’s maybe only one book between ten children, which makes it pretty hard for the kids to learn how to read. Reading is the foundation of education, and education is the foundation for these kids to be released from poverty.”

The school will receive not just piles of books, but rather a ready-made mobile library.

The church committed to send six containers of books to Kenya, one to each of the schools Nairobi Chapel has adopted, with the first being sent off last Sunday, 31 July. It is headed for a newly built school in a village 60km out of Nairobi set up by people displaced after the 2007-08 post-election ethnic violence. It is hoped that the container will arrive in September, in time for the official launch of the school.

The church was blessed to discover in its midst nine retired librarians.

The school will receive not just piles of books, but rather a ready-made mobile library of 6000 titles, new and second-hand. They were all donated by church and community members keen to find a good home for books they no longer needed.

“We decided that rather than sending over a container load of books willy-nilly, we would completely fit out a shipping container as a ready-to-go library,” says Edwards.

The church was blessed to discover in its midst nine retired librarians, who have spent one or two days a week for the past nine months creating a library of colourful books suitable for African children aged from three to 14.

The shipping container is now an Aladdin's cave of treasures.

The shipping container is now an Aladdin’s cave of treasures. Anne Lim

“Every single book is catalogued, it’s got its own borrowing card, it’s all been labelled in a simplified Dewey system – categorised into fiction, non-fiction, class readers, picture books, large poster books,” says Edwards.

The ultimate goal is for Kenyan kids to discover the joy of reading the Bible for themselves.

All the books are in English as all education in Kenya is done in English, but donations of bilingual English-Swahili books are welcome.

The church needs to raise about $10,000 to buy, fit out and ship each container, so as well as asking for books it also asks for a $1 donation per book to help with those costs.

Its next book drive will be in September and there will be another in December, linked with its annual carol service.

“I think there is an incredible outreach opportunity for us in the community. ‘Here’s what we’re doing as a church, we’d love you to come and partner with us, why not come in and see what’s going on?’” says Edwards.

The ultimate goal is for Kenyan kids to discover the joy of reading the Bible for themselves.

“Maybe through my education I can see a future beyond the slum.”

“But meanwhile what we want to do is place books in the hands of every kid in Nairobi so that they can learn to read,” he says.

“The excitement of reading and being able to explore and discover starts to release the imagination and you can just imagine these kids starting to think about what else is there in life? Maybe my future isn’t here in the slum, maybe through my education I can see a future beyond the slum where I currently live, so that’s what we’re excited about.

“It’s education for life and eternity.”

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  • Please pray that the children who receive these books find a better future through education.
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