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Your location>Home>Publications>PeaceWays>Spring 2012

   
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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 Leadership 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.

Peace education 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 classes 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 are not repeated.

As The Children’s Peace Library continues to grow and add new books, the Transformational Leadership Centre is looking at the possibility of opening 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, the new 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.