Stevenage charity sets sights on more libraries for Kenyan community

Kenyan children have been enjoying the library since it opened last month

Kenyan children have been enjoying the library since it opened last month - Credit: Archant

A shipping container transformed into a library for deprived children in Africa has become such a success that the charity behind it are planning to bring nine more libraries to the region.

Kenyan children have been enjoying the library since it opened last month

Kenyan children have been enjoying the library since it opened last month - Credit: Archant

The library in Ukunda, Kenya, opened last month and attracted 1,300 people in just three weeks, with people walking for miles to get there.

Lenka McAlinden, who lives in Lindens in Stevenage, founded the charity Just Be A Child in 2013, following a trip to Kenya.

The charity aims to support children living in the country through various projects, including building playgrounds, providing toys and sports equipment, and building libraries.

Lenka sent 7,500 donated books and other resources to Ukunda, and adults and children worked hard for weeks to help her convert the container into a library for the town.


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She said: “In three weeks the library attracted almost 1,300 people from all walks of life. The youngest members are five years old and the oldest, well no one really knows as birthdays are not of huge significance.

“The library opens every day, with the exception of Friday, and every week it is actively used by about 210 members. It is run by 14 local volunteers.

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“We have given 100 books to 17 schools and are already busily exchanging books between some of them. It is a great way of keeping the library books fresh, and engaging schools in collaboration.

“Puzzles and games are a huge hit, and watching grown men scratching their heads trying to put a 4+ jigsaw together is a huge eye-opener.

“Drawing and creative work is also under way, with creative writing workshops led by a local author to start shortly.”

Even the tools and equipment used to convert the container are being put to good use, with library members hiring them when they have small jobs to do.

Now Lenka and her team have their sights set on establishing more libraries in the region.

She said: “The library users come from long distances – some travel for over 40 minutes – and so we have decided to continue with our project and create 10 libraries. Nine will contain children and adult story books and one will be purely a school educational resource.

“Obviously everything will hinge on books and monetary donations, so please support us if you can.”

Lenka hopes the next container will be ready to leave the UK in June 2016. Items needed include books, puzzles, stationery, board games and toys.

If you can help, visit www.justbeachild.com.

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