How Hindu philanthropists use books to empower communities

When a team from Shishukunj donated books to a school in Limuru, recently. PHOTO/Courtesy.

There is a Filipino proverb which says, “a young tree is easy to straighten but when it is big it is difficult.”

One may say that this is the guiding philosophy behind the philanthropic works of Kalaniketen Shishukunj, a children’s welfare organization that has been working in Kenya for over six decades.

With offices in Nairobi, the organization uses the medium of Indian culture “to try to instill morals and values in children from the age of six (6) years and upwards so that they can become responsible and respected leaders of tomorrow’s society,” according to information in their website

The organization is touching young lives in the country particularly through donations in form of books.

Recently, they visited Acme Shishukunj Nursery School in Limuru, Kiambu County where they donated assorted books and other items to the learners.

Anil Shah who chairs the organization says that its aim is for “all-round development of the child.”

The development encompasses physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social development.

Through their initiative, they have been able to carry out over twenty projects globally and have established fifteen centers worldwide.

This is the group that made the first ever donation of books to Nyamira County based Gisesa Community Library some years back.

The library which is situated on the outskirts of Keroka Town is now a major spot for learners who yearn to satiate their appetite for books.

The library was founded by siblings whose father and mother are educationists in their own right.

In fact, the library is named after the family patriarch, Prof Gisesa who is a renowned botanist.

His daughter Lilian Kerubo recalls that she first knew of Shishukunj’s work through a friend, Carol Mbutura.

Mbutura is a volunteer resource person who helps the Indians to find community libraries that are in need of books.

“Carol placed a post in a WhatsApp group indicating that the philanthropists were giving out books for free to community libraries,” Kerubo told The Scholar Media Africa.

“My brother Nyambega Gisesa took up the initiative and went to their premises in Nairobi. They filled his car with books and he brought them home.”

Children at the Gisesa Community Library in Nyamira County, recently. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Interestingly, although Kerubo and her siblings had been nursing the idea of establishing a community library, they did not know how easy or cumbersome it would be to avail books. In fact, the premises were not ready.

“The books were so many. The titles ranged from science, religion, architecture, philosophy, among others,” she recalls.

With the books home, Kerubo urgently went for a sacco loan after they convinced their father that they would renovate one of his commercial buildings to accommodate the library.

“After sampling the titles, I took some to Kisii University to be used by psychology, history and religion students,” Kerubo who is an employee of the institution said.

She then requested to go back to Shishukunj offices in Parklands, Nairobi where she was warmly received.

“From the outside, you may not tell the wealth of knowledge in their premises,” Kerubo says.

“When I was ushered in, I met rows and rows of books and was given freedom to choose and pack them in boxes.”

Kerubo says that she was moved by their generosity and willingness to network and empower people.

“They said that their desire was to have the books in their stores reach as many people as possible.

“I was further instructed that the books I took from them reach the community, especially children,” she said.

Related story Family seeks to satiate community appetite for books

Presently, the library that started in a small way is attracting tens of readers every day, giving the Gisesas satisfaction that their dream of giving back to the community that raised them is happening in their lifetime.

Even so, the library faces some challenges including inadequate seats and tables.

Lilian Kerubo and his brother Mike assesses books in the library they established for the community. PHOTO/Courtesy.
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Mr. Araka is the pioneer reporter and editor at The Scholar. His satirical segment, The Idler's Corner is very popular with our readers. He is also a published novelist and biographer.


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