Albert Einstein once said "The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library." While in Musanze, I visited Agati Library. Currently, users can only borrow and return books in adherence to the COVID- 19 protocols.
I was given a tour of the library by the founder, Rigobert UWIDUHAYE. Rigobert is a conservation artist. He creates awareness on conservation through art. Preaching the gospel of conservation through art is a unique approach proven to be very effective.
Before meeting him, I had observed his paintings for a while. By doing so, I entered his mind and figured out what he was passionate about. Then I felt like having a conversation with him. The same way I do feel like talking to some authors after reading their books. When I reached out to him, I was planning to talk about his quest for environmental conservation but our conversation revolved around the library he had given his community.
When the idea to set up the library was conceived, the young artist spent all his savings on rent. Then he rolled up his sleeves and made bookshelves and furniture. Since he didn’t have any woodcraft skills, he turned to YouTube for instructions. At the end of the day, he covered the walls with empty shelves.
His friends extended a helping hand. They came up with donations from the heart — raising about USD 50. Loaded with 50 bucks, Rigobert borrowed a truck and drove to Kigali to buy children’s books. He was hoping to load the truck with a ton of books but he returned with a very small parcel, despite a generous offer from Bakame Editions.
Ever since, Rigobert has been filling the shelves one donation at a time and the project is impacting his community positively. "Since the launch of this library, I have read many books." Says Umuhoza Phebe, a 10-year-old resident of Muhoza Sector, Musanze District. "Before the outbreak of COVID- 19, I used to sit in the library and read books but the pandemic has prevented me from doing so. Fortunately, I am allowed to borrow books and read them from home." She adds.
In addition, Phebe and other children participate in an interactive radio show designed to give them an opportunity to read books on air and receive feedback from listeners. It is an innovative approach that helps to cultivate the culture of reading while developing comprehension and critical thinking at a tender age.
During the tour of the library, I saw unpacked boxes of new donations. From humble beginnings, Agati Library is taking baby steps. It’s future looks promising. In the meantime, Rigobert is still encouraging mankind to take care of the environment through art. 50% of the proceeds goes to the library.