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Three murals greet you as you enter the newly launched MindMe Pirates Community Library in the heart of Mathare’s Mlango Kubwa area. One by Mother Teresa stating that, “Not all of us do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” The second one quoting former Nobel Prize winner Prof. Wangari Mathai and the third by Nelson Mandela stating, “Education is the Most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world.” The murals are painted on a newly launched community library that is inspired by one young man’s dream that led him to start off an organization – MindMe International – to empower communities through sustainable development.

John Wambugu, the founder of MindMe International, is an award-winning documentary photographer and filmmaker from Kenya. He is a Canon certified trainer for Africa, Canons’ Brand Ambassador and a UN global goals advocate. John describes his turn around experience after continuously witnessing people who lack their basic needs and rights. He felt hugely indebted to the people he captured with his lens. This was the picture that did and has continued to face him every time he has had to document human-interest stories across Africa.

MindMe International (https://www.mindmeinternational.org/) is a nonprofit organisation working in marginalized areas to support and initiate projects that have a sustainable need and solution. The thematic areas are on education, livelihoods and environmental sustainability.

Mathare is a sprawling informal settlement with over five hundred thousand residents. Each household has an average of 5 –7 family members sharing a single room. This makes studying for children after school, during weekends and holidays very difficult due to the constant interruptions. This need saw MindMe International start a safe study community space through its “Libu Mtaani project”(#libumtaani). As John recaps the idea was to equip the space with books making access to learning easy and fun.

This dream has come true since the newly opened space has comfortable reading chairs and is artistically painted by local artists with inspiring messages. Recently planted indigenous trees, give the set up a serene environment keeping in line with creating greener, cleaner spaces. The Libu Mtaani project in Mathare was recently awarded as best upcoming space in a recently held competition organized by the Public Space Network.

Plans are underway to establish a computer innovation hub with youth trained in software development so they can come up with tech-based solutions for their community. The Desai Memorial Foundation made a generous donation of various educational books, which were handed over by their representatives at the official opening of the MindMe Pirates Community Library held on 11th May 2019 The event was also graced by Mlango Kubwa ward MCA Hon. Patricia Mutheu and area chief Mrs. Kamwara.

The Library will serve over 1,000 families in the Mathare community with plans to extending the same in other needy and marginalized areas through out the country. Community members will be trained to become librarians, space managers and tutors so they can, in turn, teach the younger age groups on the use of digital technology platforms that will mainly encompass the use of computers.

After a ceremonious tree planting, Mukesh Desai Convener of the Library and Education Resource Committee, Desai Memorial Foundation stated, “It is humbling to see young people stepping up to give solutions to communities, this is really what inspired Desai to partner with MindMe International and support its work”. The MCA of Mlango Kubwa ward Hon Patricia also lauded this initiative that will see the community in her ward benefit ” We welcome and support this great initiative and are really humbled”. 34 year old Mama Emma Wekesa a single mother of three who bakes and sells mandazi from the community could not hide her joy, “We live in very small single houses, I bake my mandazi on the same table as my children as they do their homework, I know its hard for them to concentrate because of interruptions but there is not much I can do, this community library will help us greatly since they can come here and study”.

In his remarks John thanked the Pirates youth group that will host and maintain the library, the entire Mathare community, the local leadership, the Desai Memorial Foundation for their partnership, Standard Chartered bank and Green Belt Movement who had earlier conducted a clean-up and tree planting exercise at the space and MindMe’s advisory board for their support.

The organization invites like-minded partners to come on board in its plans to open 8-10 more model spaces across the country in marginalized communities to promote sustainable development.

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