- Cyril Peter Otieno is the founder of the smallest library in Africa located in Mugure slums, Nairobi.
- Established in 2014, the facility is the only library in the settlement area and has made a difference in terms of bringing education closer to the slums.
Here is his story as told by WoK.
Cyril Peter Otieno is the third born in a family of six children. The family lived in Baba Dogo in a small room that could hardly fit them. Speaking to Parents, Peter recalled how he could be distracted by other family members when he was studying.
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“We lived in Baba Dogo area, Nairobi, and the small room we called home could barely fit all of us. Needless to say, there was no space to do my studies. I could be reading or working on my assignments in one corner of the room, while my sister is either washing utensils or having conversations with my mother on the other corner. The noise would sometimes distract me from my studies,” he told the publication.
After completing his secondary school education at Ruaraka High School in 2012, he pursued a Diploma in Community Development and project planning at Regional Institute of Business, with the aim of acquiring skills and knowledge necessary to change his community.
Establishing the Smallest Library in Africa
After completing his studies in August 2014 he returned back to the community with a dream of establishing a library for underprivileged children in the slums. He shared the idea with his mother who gave him four jerry cans while her sister gave him a small table.
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Peter recounted how his mother was skeptical about the idea and was instead pushing to get a paying job.
“I started the library and trust me; it wasn’t a walk in the park. I didn’t have funds to buy books let alone rent premises. My parents were against the idea as they expected me to look for a paying job”, he told the Parents.
My mum was very skeptical about the move and she couldn’t figure out how I would embark on such an initiative while I stood a good chance to get a good job,” Peter added.
He used savings from his garbage collection side hustle to buy two plastic chairs and two rechargeable lamps. Armed with that, the Smallest Library in Africa was born. During a past interview with Nation, Cyril revealed that when he first opened the library he received a lot of discouragement from naysayers.
“When I opened the library, nobody showed up for three days. Then four learners came, and gradually the numbers kept on increasing. As more and more people came to the library, I started to receive support from the community. Some donated money to purchase books, others asked me to collect plastic chairs from them and so on. They owned the project,” he said.
In 2017, he moved the library into a rented house which has three rooms where he pays 3,500 monthly for each room. He works with six volunteers and the facility opens from Monday to Saturday (8.00am to 8.00pm).
Apart from volunteering at the library, Peter Otieno works as a part time online writer and serves as the director of You and Us Development Initiative (YAUDI) – a Community Based Organization that advocates for access to education for children living in slums. His initiative has opened many doors for him such as becoming an alumni of the Young African Leadership Initiatives (YALI).
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