The last few weeks on board the Book Bus have really demonstrated that a great variety of skills are welcome and a bit hit with the children and the project. We have had a professional puppeteer as one of our volunteers and the rest of the group have been “roped” in to various plays and performances! It has really been great fun for all involved.
We did an amazing (if I say so myself) puppet version of “The Rainbow Fish” for the grades 1&2 at Maanu Mbwami and a repeat performance at Cowboy Cliffs. All the characters were made from materials found on the bus and the “stage” was a reed mat decorated with blue and green crepe paper fronds…(sea and reeds…of course!!) The book was narrated whilst the action was going on. There was much laughter backstage, I have to admit, especially at the thumb piano music attempt and I think we had as much fun as the children and teachers!! The children were enthralled; I really don’t think any of them have seen anything like this before. They especially liked meeting the puppets afterwards! This is really bringing a book to life. This is making reading enjoyable and associating books with fun – this is what the Book Bus is about!
There was a lot more puppet fun during the fortnight, as you may imagine, as well as musical interludes, drama and plenty of action songs! The children respond well to almost any type of fun activity, if they haven’t seen it before they may be shy and take a while to get into it but rest assured they will soon be singing, jumping, shaking or bopping alongside side their Book Bus teachers!
We used old water bottles with some gravel (Grubby’s drive is now a little less gravelly – sshhh!!) inside and covered with material to make homemade shakers. What a simple activity but such fun. The kids at Cowboy Cliffs, Lubasi and Zweilopili are all proud owners of fun but noisy shakers! I wonder what their parents said when they got home?!! The following week at Zweilopili some of the smaller children who hadn’t been in the class had their own shakers. They had obviously gone home and copied the idea and been amazingly creative to get around the lack of glue. We had glued the fabric to the bottles but they had used strands of thin plastic taken from the maize flour bags to make a rope to tie the fabric on!! Using their initiative and being creative – another aspect of education the Book bus tries to develop! It’s so great to see this kind of thing in action even after we leave!!
Of course there were plenty of conventional lessons going on too. Many volunteers this year have brought books about themselves and their lives back home. This is a great ice breaker and the kids love to see photos of family, friends and places visited. One volunteer had visited china and had a page in her book with pictures from China. One photo showed people eating with chopsticks. She had brought dozens of pairs of disposable chopsticks from home and when the children had read and learnt about China, they got their own set of chopsticks and had to try and pick up various sizes of pompom!! That lesson was a great success!!
To be a Book Bus volunteer what you need is a passion for helping these children. Some initiative, a willingness to get stuck in, a sense of humour and a degree of flexibility (as T.I.A This IS Africa!!) will help you along the way. As we were driving along to school one day, with all the children running alongside, shouting, smiling, laughing and waving, one of our young volunteers looked out the window and said “These children are just like anti-depressants”! I couldn’t have said it better, it’s not just us “giving” to them, they are also giving back something…the smiles and the welcome that you get everyday from the pupils is so rewarding and I think every Book bus volunteer will agree, it can’t help but make you smile too!!