Community Library Built Thanks to a Successful Local Fundraising Training

By KCDF Communication Team

West Seme location, Kisumu: The day Okuto Community Library opened its door in January 2022 in West Seme ward, Kisumu County, was a celebration.

The community had surmounted many challenges and prevailed over the COVID-19 pandemic to raise the required funds. At last, they could smile. It was a long journey coming.

Over the years, members of the community had noted that education in this region was dwindling, and they lacked a designated hall to hold meetings and other community-related events. There were conversations around starting one, but one question lingered in all forms—where do we get the funds?

It was Benta Ndeda, Director and Founder of Aniga Women Initiative who came up with a solid plan. Running the organisation equipped her with vital skills for local fundraising.

Benta Ndeda, Director and Founder of Aniga Women Initiative

“We started Aniga Women Initiative in 2005 as a self-help group before formally registering it in 2010. Our mission is to empower communities in the areas of education, food security, mentorship programs, and community volunteer work. When we started, HIV and AIDS were rampant, and I had lost two brothers almost at the same time. I decided to open up about it and with some members of my clan, we started doing outreaches in the community. Then we asked ourselves, “How do we ensure that we have food on our tables to ensure that women don’t fall prey to sexual predators?” The Aniga Women Initiative kicked off and we started with a kitchen garden. Through this, we networked and got a lot of support from the community and other organisations.

Through her work in the community, one of her networks told her about the Change the Game Academy which is a programme implemented by Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF) where civil society organisations receive the necessary skills to better strengthen their local efforts in local fundraising and mobilizing support towards their development projects. She had undergone training on local fundraising and wanted Benta to go through the same. “She kept telling me that I would be amazed,” she offers.

Before the training, Benta was already getting excited at the prospects of all the international donors she’d get. “But I needed this training to unlearn that funding can only come from overseas donors”.

“One thing that struck my mind was that the facilitator had these small cards and told us to write the international donors we had or wished to have on board. She further told us to assume that all had pulled out. What would happen next?”

The lessons she acquired from the training, she says, were plenty. “I learned that everybody you see around is a potential donor, also don’t be tired of asking, and learn how to pitch your projects. Notably, resources are not only limited to money; they also include in-kind gifts too.”

When the committee approached me intending to help them fundraise for a community library, we wrote a proposal to KCDF and they accepted to support on grant matching fund where the Okuto community would contribute half the amount required for the project and KCDF would match the amount. At first, many didn’t believe that we could raise Sh1,000,000 from the community.”

David Omoso, the school’s patron for the past 10 years was the one who approached Benta for help.

“We had been having harambees for classrooms before getting support from the NG-CDF, but this was a bigger challenge. Determined, we decided to forge on. We had a meeting with the members of the community and representatives from the Aniga Women Initiative and resolved to give it a go. We had a committee of 50 people,” he offers. We proposed, and it was accepted.

The condition was that they had to raise the Sh1 million in six months. “We held the first fundraiser in 2019 and raised Sh250,000, then the Covid-19 pandemic happened and threw us out of the course,” says Maureen Anyango, the Project Coordinator at Aniga Women Initiative and the secretary general to the fundraising committee.

“Some people had even started suggesting that we shelve the dream but if there is something that I learned from Change the Game Academy is to be innovative. We decided to have a WhatsApp group, make small cards for members to give out then mapped out our donors and contacted them. Admittedly, it was not easy,” she says.

One of the strategies that Benta adopted is having her mentor, whom she had gotten from Change the Game Academy join the WhatsApp group. “She came in to encourage me and implore people to make contributions,” she says.

One of the strategies that Benta adopted is having her mentor, whom she had gotten from Change the Game Academy join the WhatsApp group. “She came in to encourage me and implore people to make contributions,” she says.

Part of the 50-member committee that contributed to the success of the
local fundraising for the Okuto Community Library

Part of the 50-member committee that contributed to the success of the local fundraising for the Okuto Community Library

Mary Nikita,14, is a grade eight candidate
in the year 2022.

Besides accessing books, Dan Ondula, the Head Teacher of the school says that the library is a first in the sub-county.

“The library is the only one in the three zones and it has benefitted the teachers, learners, and the community. The students can engage in the morning and evening lessons,” he offers.

To another learner, the library is a doorway to a bigger vision he has for the community.

“My name is Fabregas Ochieng and I want to be a scientist. Maybe I am the one who will find a cure for cancer, a disease that has affected very many people in our community. Here, I find lots of materials to read,” he says.

Fabregas Ochieng, a learner at Okuto
Primary Schoolaspires to be a scientist.

The availability of a library has also made things easier for teachers. According to Mr. Wilson Ouma, it has revolutionized learning. “We had normal learning sessions and the learners could only access books in class. Now, they get books that they carry home after mobilizing them to bring books,” says the CRE, Swahili, and English teacher at the school.

The joy of having a library in Okuto is a dream come true even for Rita Otieno, a retired teacher, and the board of management (BOM) Chairperson at Okuto Primary School.

“I retired 20 years ago, and I have been on Okuto’s board for the past seven years. This is a dream come true for the entire community around here,” she offers.

Learners reading a variety of books at Okuto Community Library

The community wanted a place where the children could read, youth use computers, and where “wazees” could meet and hold their meetings.

A learner using one of the computers inside the
Okuto Community Library

With the first leg of the project done, they are now looking for ways to address other emerging challenges.

“The money we got went into construction, so we’re still trying to furnish the library through local fundraising. The library lacks toilets, and it doesn’t have furnishings such as computers in the ICT room,” says Mr. Ondula.

The other challenge, the BOM chair says is the lack of an ICT teacher and a librarian who can guide the learners while at the library.

“We also don’t have a security personnel manning the place or water catchment,” she says.

Having seen the fruits of the local fundraising training by the Change the Game Academy, Maureen says that she was so inspired that she went for mobilizing support training. “It’s an idea that can change the world. After the local fundraising, I decided to go back to class and learn about mobilizing support. I thought to myself, “If this is what local fundraising can do, how much more will I learn from the mobilizing support training?” We are mobilizing support to support our program change policies in the sphere of food security, and women empowerment, and get help for the health of the community members. When I pitched to the class, I managed to raise over 4,000 Kenya shillings in class. We got sanitary towels and it was such a great experience,” she says.

Benta, who is a one-time Member of the County Assembly (MCA) says that the training equipped her with skills and knowledge to serve the community better.

“The training had a great impact on me and it’s a keystone in my work in the community. This is what I like to do. Serve and find long-lasting solutions to our problems,” she offers.