VSO Volunteer Nikki Packer


Just over a year ago, I saw an advert for a post as a VSO volunteer Trainer Librarian at the Lubuto Library Project in Lusaka. I jumped at the chance to apply, and after a lengthy but necessary application and training process, here I am. I have left my job as a school librarian in the UK and now, sitting on the veranda at the Lubuto Libraries Head Office in Kabulonga, Lusaka, listening to the African pop music which is wafting over the wall from next door, I have the chance to reflect on my first week at the Fountain of Hope. I have joined the Lubuto family with Jennifer, my fellow VSO (or CUSO in her case) volunteer, who will be working at the Ngwerere Library. We both arrived in Zambia a couple of weeks ago, but our first week was spent on in-country training with 20 other VSO volunteers, which culminated in an "Employers Workshop". The plan for the day was for us to participate in various seminars and discuss the ins and outs of our placements with our new employers - however, not for me and Jennifer! We were whisked off to the Fountain of Hope Library (my library) to help prepare for the visit of Ban Ki Moon, United Nations Secretary General, on Saturday 25th February. What an auspicious and memorable start!

The event over, it was time to return to normal life, and I have spent an amazing week learning about the Lubuto Libraries and the Fountain of Hope. I have met the two lovely Mentors who work closely with the library, Kenny and Vasco, and even though I didn't understand most of Kenny's mentoring session (it not being in English) I found it totally inspiring! I've been introduced to the FoH staff and residents (they have all been told to treat me as their Auntie or sister depending on their age!) and started to get to know the way that Lubuto and FoH work. Due to staffing issues the library has not been open regularly recently, so it has been brilliant to be able to open the doors each morning and watch the children flood in. Sometimes I read to them, sometimes with them, and sometimes I just watch them eagerly sharing their books with each other and feel like the luckiest librarian in the world! Never before have I had so many books to shelve, and keeping the library tidy is an almost impossible task, but this is a sure sign that the library is being very well used, so I think it is something to be celebrated (I'm not sure I would have been so enthusiastic about this in the UK!).

There is lots to do - a volunteer rota to set up, a member of staff to find and train, programmes to begin, shelves to tidy, and relationships to build with the library users. I cannot wait to go to work on Monday!