Monday, October 1, 2012

Case Study No. 0556: Rashi Farah and Farah Nur

Rocketboom: The Camel Bookmobile of Kenya
story links: rocketboom african field correspondent ruud elmendorp reports on the camel bookmobile in garissa, kenya

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Tags: video rocketboom field report kenya
Added: 5 years ago
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[scene opens on a young female reporter speaking directly to the camera]
JOANNE COLAN: Hello, and good Wednesday, June 13th, 2007. I'm Joanne, and this is RocketBoom. Today we set foot again in Kenya, thanks to RocketBoom correspondent Ruud Elmendorp, where a camel called "Da'arley" or "White One" has the very important mission of being a travelling library. Let's take a look.
[cut to footage of a camel in Kenya, narrated by Ruud in an African dialect (the text is translated into English via subtitles]
RUUD ELMENDORP: [in voice over] For many, the "Ship of the Desert" will be connected to slowly trekking caravans through the sand. The life of this camel is quite different. His name is Da'arley, which means "White One."
[cut to men carrying a box of books over to the camel and placing it on its back]
RUUD ELMENDORP: [in voice over] He is one of the twelve "porters" of the Camel Library in Garissa. Da'arley is having one of his boxes attached. He walks to neighbouring villages four times a week. Each time he takes two hundred books.
[cut to a male librarian standing next to the camel]
RUUD ELMENDORP: [in voice over] Rashi Farah is the librarian in Garissa.
[cut to the librarian ("Rashi Farah, Garissa Librarian") addressing the camera and speaking in English]
RASHID FARAH: We also use it to deliver the books to our communities that we cannot reach through the mobile vehicles. Because the roads are not passable during the rainy season, and other times they are also sandy.
[cut to more footage of boxes ("Reading Is Knowledge") being prepared]
RUUD ELMENDORP: [in voice over] The books are for nomadic communities around Garissa. Although eighty percent of these people are illiterate. Therefore, the camel library is not necessarily meant for adults.
[cut back to the librarian speaking directly to the camera]
RASHID FARAH: Right now, we are actually reaching the children of those communities who are nomads. So we believe that maybe the next ten years, we are going to have a society that is educated, and that community which is now illiterate will turn to be literate.
[cut back to the camel being led out of his pen by another male librarian]
RUUD ELMENDORP: [in voice over] Da'arley and his companion camel are ready to leave. The assistant librarian is showing them the way.
[cut to the librarian ("Farah Nur, Garissa librarian assistant") addressing the camera and speaking in English]
FARAH NUR: Now we are going to a school known as the Bulargi. That's fifteen kilometers from here now, the library.
[cut to footage of the camels being led out of the city, then to Farah Nur speaking to the camera as they walk]
FARAH NUR: Now we are just, uh ... that's Bulargi Primary School. Now we can see the roof of the school now. It's visible now.
[cut to footage of the camels arriving at the school, then the librarian sorting the books for the waiting students]
RUUD ELMENDORP: [in voice over] The children love it that the library is back. The assistant librarian is showing the materials. Meanwhile, the children are already flocking. In the boxes there are reading books, popular science books, and of course cartoons, which are also very popular here.
[cut to footage of the students sitting outside and reading]
RUUD ELMENDORP: [in voice over] Members are allowed to borrow books for a period of two weeks. This school has eighty members, and in all the twelve villages there are thirty five hundred.
[cut to footage of the students reading their books aloud to each other]
RUUD ELMENDORP: [in voice over] The library stays until all the classes have visited. Then the camels come to carry the books back.
[cut to footage of the camels leaving the school]
RUUD ELMENDORP: [in voice over] Ruud Elmendorp, Garissa Kenya.



The camel-borne library actually exists. It operates from Garissa in Kenya's isolated Northeastern Province near the unstable border with Somalia. Initially launched with three camels on Oct. 14, 1996, the library now uses 12 camels traveling to four settlements per day, four days per week. The camel library is now operating also in Wajir, Kenya, even further to the northeast. The camels bring books to a semi-nomadic people who live with drought, famine and chronic poverty. The books are spread out on grass mats beneath an acacia tree, and the library patrons, often barefoot, sometimes joined by goats or donkeys, gather with great excitement to choose their books until the next visit. The books are written in English or Swahili, the two official primary of Kenya.

In 2006, I visited the region and walked the bush with the real camel library. I was moved by the excitement with which the people greeted the camel library. But the bush is hard on books and, of course, the traveling library badly needs more. Also on the librarian's wishlist is a tent to provide shade against the 100-degree-plus temperatures and a dozen sturdy boxes to hold the books that travel by camelback.

Thanks to the more than 235 authors who acted so quickly and generously to donate, and also reached out to colleagues and friends since the project began Feb. 13. Thanks, too, to the bloggers who have written about the drive and those who love books and decided to contribute. Special thanks to the incomparable M.J. Rose for helping birth the idea and organize the drive, and the amazing Susan Ito for crucial help in setting up this website and running the drive.

Warmly, Masha Hamilton



In the desert plains of Kenya the four wheel drives are ruling, but not in Garissa. There the old days are still there. Books from the library are brought to schools by: Camels!

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