“The world belongs to those who read.” -Rick Holland
We are so thankful for the vision, passion and desire to help others that our founders, staff, and supporters have for The Raining Season. Our organization would not be where it is today without it. It started as a desire to do something. Along the way, a countless number of people have linked arms with us, sharing their own ideas, skills, and talents.
This week, we are excited to introduce you to Joe Walker and share a new project in the making. Joe made his first trip to Sierra Leone in January of this year. Joe has a passion for helping others and for reading. While in country, one thing that stood out to Joe was a lack of books. While in East Freetown, Joe was able to find a small shanty bookstore run by Simon, a former Sierra Leone police officer. The bookstore was mostly filled with religious books. Joe also found a book with a collection of children’s stories there that he passed on to the kids at The Raining Season. After talking to in-country director, Sorie, and co-founder, Osseh, Joe began exploring the reading culture in Sierra Leone, and what impact it could have at The Raining Season. Reading teaches empowerment, problem-solving, and critical thinking. It shows the ability to have a voice and to express yourself. It teaches you how to convey your thoughts verbally and in written form. These skills are so important for our kids at the center. These skills are necessary whether they go on to be an accountant, a teacher, seamstress, doctor, horticulturist or whatever passion they might have.
Recent statistics show that in 2015, the adult literacy rate for Sierra Leone was 48.4%. For comparison, the U.S. has an 86% adult literacy rate. Sierra Leone’s percentage is up from 34.8% in 2004. While the statistic has increased over time, Sierra Leone still ranks toward the bottom of the list in literacy. Knowledge is power and Joe saw an opportunity to impact statistic, starting with the kids at the center. The kids are reading for school, but there is the potential for a bigger impact. Joe shared, “We don’t just read for education or for fun, we also read because it’s the way that we learn to express ourselves so that we can have a voice and become change agents of the future.”
Short term, the goal is to introduce a reading culture to the kids and staff at the center. Joe wants to get books into the hands of the kids. He wants to give the staff the opportunity to read, too. The kids will see reading modeled by their aunties, taking the first steps toward making it a cultural norm. The goal is to also get books that they will enjoy into their hands. The younger boys love superheroes while the older boys love soccer. We want to get books into their hands that they would naturally gravitate toward. The goal is not to force reading on them, because what fun would that be? However, we can certainly incentivize them! Certificates, a trip for ice cream? We all know of a few kids who jump on board for that. What about a reading journal where they could write their thoughts down on paper? A reading journal would be another opportunity to process what they are reading.
Long term, the goal is to see the impact reading can have if it is a cultural norm. Another long term goal would be the possibility of building a library. Joe wants to introduce the kids to reading for enjoyment and guide them with the tools and support needed to succeed. At this point, there are so many possibilities as to where this project might lead. Joe’s idea is to start small, but this has the potential to impact more than just The Raining Season.
The biggest question Joe has received is, “How can I get involved?” This program is still very new and in the planning stages. However, he has already reached out for book ideas to bring to Sierra Leone. He is more than willing to talk with anyone and bounce ideas. Are you a sponsor that Skypes monthly? As the project launches, you talk to your sponsored kids about what they are reading and even share what you are reading yourself, or with your family. Do you feel led to give financially to this new project? That is always an option, too. There are so many ways to be a part of the launch. You can keep up on updates by following Joe on Instagram @mylyfeofy.
We are excited about the possibilities that this new program can bring for our center, the staff, and the children. We are excited to see this program unfold as Joe’s leadership and passion for this program are already opening new doors. Joe reached out to Euphemia-Ann Sydney-Davies, designer of Sydney-Davies in London. Euphemia-Ann Sydney-Davies is a native of Sierra Leone, fleeing during the civil war. She went on to attend fashion school and is now an accomplished designer in Europe. Euphemia has agreed to partner with us to create usable, durable and sustainable bags to hold the books that will soon be in the hands of our kids at the center.
Join us in praying as this new program is launched. We pray that the stories read will empower the children in years to come. We pray for the potential impact, not only at The Raining Season but for Sierra Leone. What excites you most about this project? Let us know in the comments below! We love to hear your feedback!!
The Raining Season