By Lucy Lazarony
Delray Beach librarian Isabella Rowan has returned from Africa, but she’s already planning to return.
When she went to Kenya in June she helped deliver 15,000 library books to 15 schools as a volunteer with Project Humanity, a nonprofit out of Key West.
The books were part of 60,000 delivered to Africa by a nonprofit called the African Library Project.
Next summer she’s going back to Kenya with books to open a sister library in Kendu Bay, a small coastal town on Lake Victoria.
It will be the town’s first library and will be housed in a local school.
“The main reason I selected Kendu Bay was because it basically was the only community that applied for a community/public library,” Rowan says. “Because I am a public adult services librarian, I really wanted a community library. Once that detail was out of the way, the more I learned about Kendu Bay and its history, the more I liked and respected the community. Though not the booming port city and center of commerce it once was, it has always been a town, since the earliest settlers came, known for its religious tolerance and for its inhabitants of various backgrounds living peaceably together.”
The Kenya Library Project is an initiative of the Delray Beach Public Library. Organizers are looking to collect 1,000 to 1,500 new or gently used books for the Kendu Bay library.
People may support the Kenya Library Project through cash and Amazon gift card donations. And they can purchase books from the Kenya Library Project wish list on Amazon Smile.
“That’s the biggest and best way you can support this project is buy a book for us,” says Rowan, who is educational programs and volunteer manager at the Delray Beach library. “We have 275 books on shelves in my office right now.”
Rowan called her time in Kenya “amazing and nonstop” and said students were grateful for the visitors and books.
“It was a wonderful, beautiful experience, schoolchildren singing and dancing to welcome us,” Rowan says.
The schoolchildren in Kenya speak three languages — their tribal language, Swahili and English — and they were eager to practice English.
“The girls were so excited to practice reading English with me,” Rowan says. “It was awesome.”
Rowan can’t wait to return to Kendu Bay next summer. “I fell in love with Kendu Bay. I’m in love with this project,” she says. “For me personally, it’s going to be a lifelong mission.”