Most youngsters nowadays don’t appreciate literature. In fact, a majority of campus students only get to study books pertaining to their course work. However, that’s not the case for one Immaculate Samantha Ajiambo, a third-year student at the Moi University, whose love and passion for books comes as a surprise to many of her peers. At only twenty-one years of age, Immaculate is already running a reading advocacy group – Thamani Books. She says, her parents encouraged her to read a lot, and she often receives books as gifts. In her words, she’s addicted to books. Anything book, she’s in.
What is Thamani Books?
Thamani Books is a reading advocacy group, and our main aim is to encourage young people to embrace the reading culture in the hope of increasing the quality of education and reducing illiteracy. We write letters to schools, donate books and newspapers as well as offer motivational talks and volunteer to tutor high school students.
When was Thamani Books started?
In July 2016, I got a chance to attend an entrepreneurship summit in Nairobi that attracted many influential yet young people from across Africa. It was interesting to interact with all those young people who were doing something to impact their society positively. I, therefore, took it upon myself to use reading (something that I enjoy doing so much) as a way of reducing the levels of poverty. Thus Thamani Books came to be!
So how did you start out?
At the time, I was at home for my long holidays. I approached a local school, Mariakani Secondary and pitched the idea to the principal who liked it. I was given an opportunity to work with the students there and together we produced their first ever school magazine. Since then, we have done the same with three other schools.
How do you get the books and newspapers for donations?
We rely on donations. I have a few friends in the print business who provide the newspapers that we donate to schools. As for books, we mainly donate course work textbooks. We ask friends and relatives to donate textbooks that are no longer in use. Besides donations, we have some income generating activities within the group. We offer writing and editing services and charge for them. We also sell popcorns during school events at Moi University. The mentorship services for high schools are offered at a fee of 1000. Some schools, however, usually top up this amount after we have delivered our services and impressed them.
What are the main challenges you have faced?
A few members joined the group thinking that it was a money making venture, and upon disappointment, opted out. We are now thirteen as opposed to the fifteen while starting out. Approaching schools is not easy. Some schools turn us away while others don’t see the importance of what we do. Other schools are in such poor conditions and the few books we donate wouldn’t help much.
You have something big coming up. Tell me about it?
Yeah. On the 24th of this month (July) Thamani Books is heading over to Our Lady of Angels, Mariakani – I am an alumnus of the school. So I have rounded up others to help us out. We will be donating some books as well as stationery.
What next for Thamani books?
As of now, Thamani Books mainly operates in Kilifi and Uasin Gishu counties only. We are therefore looking to venture into other counties too. I am also working with a certain youth leader in Mariakani to start a community library.
Besides being an avid reader, Ajiambo is also a writer and poet. She writes for Writers Guild Kenya, Eldohub, Horizon publication and Mwangaza magazine, which is an online publication. She is also the editor of her campus publication, 3rd eye Press club. Ajiambo believes the reading culture amongst the youth is fair but there is need to cultivate it. She also encourages people to attend book launches and festivals as well as read local writers. “Let’s read our writers, let’s read Kenyan writers, let’s read East African writers,” she says. Her favourite quote is one by Ralph Waldo, “If you meet a man of rare intellect, ask them the books they read.”
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