Paul Mensah from Ghana

paul mensah

Could you tell us about yourself and your background?

I am an avid reader and a community service advocate. I believe that literacy can be a potent tool to nurture the next generation of leaders for community development and social change. 
In 2018, while doing my gap year at a local community school, my paths crossed with Precious, a 9 year old student who could neither read nor write. Through an after school literacy programme I started in the school, Precious found hope when she learned to put letters together to become words and words into sentences. Today, Precious can read and write and boldly express herself about what she imagines her future to be. 

My time with Precious inspired me to start LibrariesWithoutWalls to introduce a culture of reading in the school and community and encourage young people to find a voice through literacy. Over 15 volunteers help to make this happen. The project operates a school-based reading engagement programme, a mobile reading programme for kids and youth in hard-to-reach rural communities, and a creative arts programme for kids to express themselves through colours and paints. These projects shape communities by getting the youth to volunteer and participate in community engagement and also provide mentorship for at-risk girls.  

What prompted you to participate in #libraryselfie2021, and how did you feel when you emerged as one of the winners?

The #libraryselfie2021 was an incredibly unique opportunity to connect with young leaders across the continent to expand literacy opportunities to the next generation of African leaders! When I received the email announcing that I was one of the winners, I was elated, and this was not just because I was going to get the prizes, but because the opportunity to participate in such a keenly contested international competition was a great honour and a huge moment for LibrariesWithoutWalls. 

How has participating in #libraryselfie2021 contributed to your passion for reading and learning?
#libraryselfie2021 gave me the inspiration to read more and opened up the opportunity to connect with other leaders of change across Africa. I got a sneak peek into many libraries around Africa and saw some interesting books and library ideas. From the perspective of the reading programme I run for rural kids, participating in the competition spurred me on to continue to give more kids the opportunity to read, learn and grow with books. It also made me realise that we can transform any space into a lively, vibrant haven for learning.
As a #libraryselfie2021 winner in your country, how do you plan to continuously contribute to improving learning and reading through libraries? 

I am committed to leading LibrariesWithoutWalls to use its current sustainable mobile library idea and community book corners and creative spaces to expand literacy opportunities for children and the youth through book reading, mentorship and creative engagements. 

We are excited about transforming communal spaces into hubs for reading and we will continue to collaborate with schools without libraries to create reading corners in the classrooms and involve children in the arts and other programmes that give them opportunities to learn. 

Goethe-Institut awarded you a 200 Euro mini-grant to implement a mini project in your community. Could you give us an insight into your project and what you hope to achieve with it? 

We love to see children turn letters into words and words into sentences. LibrariesWithoutWalls will use the 200 Euro grant from the Goethe-Institut to implement a reading and arts programme to make reading an enjoyable hobby for at least 210 children in 3 communities across Ghana. We believe we can achieve this by creating warm and welcoming reading spots where children can come and be guided to read age-appropriate books. We know every child is an artist, and we intend to also engage the kids who are excited about colours to draw, paint and colour their lives!  

Through this project, we want to tackle the poor reading culture among children in rural communities, expand creative and safe play opportunities for the kids and use literacy as a tool to unlock inequality and encourage community cohesion and also support the achievement of SDG 4. We are confident that 80% of participating children will make at least 2 levels of progress in reading over the period of the project. We will measure this by comparing the children’s reading levels at the start of the programme with the end.