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Evelyne Mwandia

Start A Library Trust

Kenya

Evelyne Mwandia serves as the Executive Director of Start A Library Trust. A charitable trust committed to eradicating illiteracy in Africa by establishing school libraries in underserved communities to enhance access to reading materials for pleasure.
She firmly believes literacy and lifeskills are essential for every child aged 4-14 in primary schools because reading and writing form the foundation of learning, crucial for individual development and communities' socioeconomic progress. By promoting literacy, she will break down barriers to education, employment, financial independence, and social justice. Through the WLW Fellowship, she seeks the support of its Network to chart the organization's long-term vision and direction, with the ultimate goal of establishing a library in every school in Africa!

Evelyne Mwandia

About
Me.

What is your story?

What drives your work?

Literacy is fundamental for learning in school and at home. The ability to read and write forms the heart of primary education for all. Literacy development is a process that spans through early childhood years, and it is one of the essential skills children acquire as they progress through their early school years. But it is horrifying that:
i. Nearly 400 million children of primary school age cannot read or write (Save the Children).
ii. Only two in five grade 4 learners meet expectations in reading an appropriate grade 3 English text (Uwezo report 2021).
iii. Approximately 95% of public primary schools have no libraries in Kenya
iv. Kenya has no basic education library policy and guidelines

With this kind of statistics, it means that we are setting our children to fail from the word go, if we allow them to graduate from school without learning to read. What motivates me to the goal towards Zero Illiteracy is that, growing up in one of the underserved villages in Kitui County, Kenya, I could barely speak English or our national language Swahili throughout my primary and secondary education. In secondary school, my self-esteem was highly challenged and everyone thought I was timid. It was not until I joined the University that I could access a library. My career path especially climbing the ladder in leadership took a longer time, for the same reasons lack of self-awareness, low self-esteem and poor communication skills. Literacy affects the long-term productivity of a country. People with low literacy levels have more difficulty finding and keeping a job. They also earn less money. Illiteracy goes beyond career, however. It can harm our ability to live our whole lives. The emphasis, therefore, on fighting illiteracy in Kenya and Africa at large is essential lest the continent lags economically, technologically and socially. For it to develop and stay on the cutting edge, all stakeholders need to put a concerted effort into recognizing that information is the nerve centre of development and literacy is the repository of information; it is the quest for self-discovery. It is necessary, therefore, to create awareness in schools and the general public on the importance of literacy for leisure and not necessarily to pass exams. That is what Start a Library Trust is doing.

Describe your biggest strength as a leader

My greatest strength has been the capacity to deliver visionary leadership. I excel at creating a clear and appealing vision for the organization, breaking goals for each team member, rallying the team around common goals, and ensuring that everyone is on board with our mission. My communication abilities have also helped to establish a pleasant and collaborative organizational culture.

Describe your biggest challenge as a leader

I have a high standard for the quality of work and outcomes, which sometimes means that I spend more time than necessary on certain tasks.

About the
Organization
and the Project.

Sector

Not-for-profit

Vision & Mission

Mission: To champion literacy in Africa by creating a thriving school communities through establishing vibrant Model School Libraries, Capacity building for sustainable development and robust advocacy.

Year Founded

2022

No. of Employees

8

Years in the Organization

7 years

Annual Budget (USD)

$180,000

Geographical Area Served

Kenya -nationally

Organizational /

Project Description

Focus: Development of the organization's five-year strategic plan.

Goals:
1. Attract at least 3 multi-year donors to give 1 million USD to establish 200 more libraries
2. Secure at least 5 unrestricted grants to support the administration costs
3. Scale to every county in Kenya
4. Kenyan children breaking the Guinness World Record in Reading Aloud
5. A strong communication strategy that will amplify work across borders.
6. A strong board of Trustees

Why is this project important and timely?

What is the target population of your project? 

A strategic plan that will support the organization's growth to directly serve one million African children in public primary schools in the next five years.

How will you know that you have achieved that impact? What data will you use to assess your impact?

To measure impact, I will employ develop robust Monitoring and Evaluation framework to measure success of each goal. This will include: baseline assessments (questionnaires) to determine the initial literacy and life skills for the children before the libraries. Quarterly and annual assessments to assess the impact the library has had on the learners' phonic and phonemic awareness, comprehension, fluency, reading and writing skills for literacy skills. On the other hand, I will carry out interviews and questionnaires to measure the learners' skills such as creativity, communication skills, confidence, critical thinking etc.
This data will be categorized per gender, per grade.

How do you anticipate this unique leadership education impacting you personally? What new skills are you hoping too develop & grow through this experience?

The WLW Program offers a unique opportunity for personal growth. I anticipate that the program will provide me with valuable insights into effective leadership strategies, which will enhance my abilities to navigate complex challenges. I also expect to learn global perspectives that foster a global mindset and allow for adaptability to diverse audiences. I look forward to honing my strategic thinking skills from the pool of mentors and interacting with fellow participants to enable me to set clear personal goals, navigate uncertainties with confidence, and formulate strategies that ensure the sustainable growth of Start a Library Trust.

Where would you like to see yourself professionally in the next 3 years?

In the next three years, I am looking forward to taking on more responsibilities and playing an important role in drafting the organization's five-year strategic plan. I am committed to honing my leadership abilities and using my experience to achieve positive results. In addition, I plan to actively participate in professional development opportunities to stay current on industry trends and upcoming technology.

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