Reading Peace: Rwanda Peace Library
By Annie Loewen, Mennonite Central Committee volunteer.
The tree is dressed when it is still young.
– Kinyarwanda proverb
It only takes one
look at the messy bookshelves to know that there have been many children
that came through the Children’s Peace
Library today. Every day the library receives visits from close to sixty
children who live near-by or attend neighboring schools. These children
spend anywhere from ten minutes to two hours looking through the shelves
of books trying to decide which one to read next and which ones to choose
to take home and share with their families.
The Children’s Peace Library is located in the Kagarama sector
of Kigali, Rwanda. It was opened in 2009 as an extension of the Transformational
Centre with support from African Great Lakes Initiative. The library began
with five hundred books and a few shelves, but, with a large donation of books
from Mennonite Central Committee, it has now grown to over 3,500 books. The
Peace Library is a place for children between the ages of seven and thirteen
to come practice their reading skills, learn about the world they live in,
and develop their imagination and curiosity. All these things contribute to
the goal of the Library, which is to teach children that everyone must work
together to create peace.
for children is something that means a lot to librarian Jean-Baptiste
Hakizimana, who left his job as an English
teacher to work with the Children’s
Library. Peace education for children is very important because children are
the future leaders of Rwanda. Children need to learn about peace when they
are young in order for it to take root and grow within them. Most Rwandan children
have grown up without being exposed to reading as a form of learning and entertainment
outside of the formal classroom. But places like The Children’s Peace
Library are introducing a new culture of reading and peace into Rwandan society.
The Library offers children the chance to learn about peace through books
and interactions with each other. Reading about different cultures, religions,
and the world around them provides a new opportunity to learn and grow. The
Peace Library also offers peer mediation workshops each year, which so far
have trained ninety students from elementary school fifth and sixth grade
in the area. The workshops teach children how to resolve conflict peacefully
through the use of conflict resolution and transformation principles. Children
who know the importance of peace and a good education have the ability to
shape the world they live in and make sure that the mistakes of the past
As The Children’s Peace Library continues to grow and add
new books, the Transformational Leadership Centre is looking at the possibility
a new branch of the library in Gisenyi, located in western Rwanda on the
northern shore of Lake Kivu. Due to limited space and availability of books,
library will start small with just a few hundred books. But news of the new
library opening has already sparked interest in local parents and church
leaders who are looking forward to the opening of the first children’s
library in that area.