Etatu works in Msambweni, Kenya. We aim to build a resourceful community. Our focus is education, particularly for girls and children who are orphans. Etatu helps children into school, providing families with uniforms and school supplies and sponsoring children. We train teachers. We fund a community jigger clinic and orphans’ feeding scheme.

In 2013, the community asked Etatu for help to build a community meeting space and library. No primary school in the area has a library. The community provided the land for this; it was an honour to be gifted with land and trusted in this way.

We decided on a circular ‘banda.’ With funds raised specifically by school children in Somerset, it was finished earlier this year. The banda is a place where pupils can do homework, read school books which they cannot possibly afford themselves and hold study groups. Village groups hold meetings there. Teachers volunteer extra lessons in the holidays there. Young children have stories read to them. However, this is in an ad hoc way, with a limited number of books, all of which are well worn.

Proposals for future use of the space are many: a childrens’ library is the significant priority, homework groups, much needed supplementary maths and English lessons and a story-telling area for the youngest children. The banda will allow the primary school to think about art, music or library sessions and provide a space to store teaching resources and a venue for teacher training. It is electrified, and has a powerful solar lamp, meaning children can visit to do their homework after dusk. It has a counter designed for three computers and a printer.

We support these aspirations and plans. We believe in the power and impact of books and that access at an early age is key. We could not provide every child with all the books they needed however. We did not want to restrict our help to the primary school, where access is impossible for older youths, toddlers and families, particularly as any “open door” policy by one headmaster could be changed by the next. The Learning Banda library set in the heart of the village was the answer.

The grant from Better World Books means we can now complete the banda, with quality shelving and fixtures, complementing the quality of the building workmanship. We will develop a childrens’ corner, provide educational board games and buy two local papers every day. We will stock a complete range of text books for the Kenya curriculum. This will mean that the most motivated have a facility to help them, while any struggling children can secure support.

We intend to “professionalise” the banda’s use and management, so that it is comes to be used almost all the time, seven days a week. After equipping it, we will provide training in its management. Filled with books and efficiently organised, the banda can offer much. Its role will be evident in a number of ways: an immediate increase in the number of people who use it; access to news and books will be opened up to everyone; a wider range of activities will be scheduled; school achievement will be improved; young children can obtain an early grounding not previously available to them.

The grant from Better World Books is an invaluable part of realising the community vision. We are very grateful.