A book in every hand

Friday January 23 2015

Twenty-one-year-old Wanja Kibuki is the founder, Vitabu Vyetu.

Twenty-one-year-old Wanja Kibuki is the founder, Vitabu Vyetu. PHOTO/ FILE/ NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JOAN THATIAH
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“I first came face to face with illiteracy when I was volunteering in Ethiopia.

When I came back home I realised that reading was the preserve of a particular class of people. As a book lover, I had to do something. Vitabu Vyetu was born.

“My job involves getting people to donate books which I deliver to children in need of them. I run most of these drives online.

Like most mornings, at 4am this morning, I was surfing the ‘net, and getting word out there on the Read Aloud campaign that I am working on this month which I hope will get children all around the country excited about reading. I had a morning meeting today and I was out of the house by 6am in a bid to beat the morning traffic.

I didn’t even get to play with my dog.

APPREHENSION

“When I entered the room, I could see apprehension on the faces of the three prospective donors I was meeting.

I have learnt to be confident and articulate to win over those a little swayed by my young age.

Most people I meet are fascinated by the idea but few actually commit to it; sometimes I get the feeling that maybe they think we have bigger problems to fight than a lack of books.

I however think that illiteracy is the root of all of our problems. If I wasn’t having meetings, it would have been a school day; I am studying international relations and journalism.

“I work with a team of seven. We just got back from Turkana to give books to children who were writing their schoolwork on the ground.

It is always fulfilling seeing the look on a child’s face when they get to own a book for the first time.

Some of them hold onto them so tightly that it makes my eyes water. It usually is a bitter-sweet experience. I’m happy to have eliminated one problem, but sad that these children have many other needs like food and clothing which I can’t meet.

“At 5pm, after my last meeting, I met with the rest of the team members to touch base over a cup of coffee.

We share a love for reading and read together at least once each month. We have a challenge to each read 50 books this year.

“I was home at 7pm to have dinner with my family and then spent some time watching a movie to get my mind off the things that I haven’t been able to do.

When I turned in at 11pm I was thinking about how I wish more people understood that you do not have to be old and rich to give.”