Bright Girls Secondary School has grown leaps and bounds since we first started working with it in 2013. Then, the school was brand new, with only 60 students and a few classrooms on the sand-swept dunes behind Shella Village. Working with what we had, we transformed one of the classrooms into a small library with furniture and 1000 books.

Since then, the school has grown in leaps and bounds. Classrooms have been added, laboratories and teachers’ blocks built, and in 2017 a new and much bigger library building was finally finished. This was good news, as the school had grown to almost 250 students – comprised primarily of girls who a few years earlier wouldn’t have gone to secondary school because their grades were too poor or they weren’t allowed off of Lamu island. That is the magic of Bright Girls – for many of the students, it is a second chance for them. They take in girls regardless of their grades, and in many cases lives are transformed.

When you see the images of the library, you’ll know why we loved working on this project. We wanted to make the space feel authentically Swahili, which reflects the local coastal culture. This was incorporated into the colors we used (neutrals reflected the expanses of beach and coral), as well as the art (all local stories painted on dhow sails) and book selection (plenty of books in Arabic and and a special collection on Islam, which is a pillar of the local culture).

The finishing touches took time, but were well worth the wait. Metal furniture was replaced with wood to eliminate the issues of rusting from the humid air. Pillows were made from painted dhow sails to create comfortable reading areas at the back of the library, and the local mothers even made thatched matting to create a cozier feel.

We are still completing the adjoining room to the library, which we made an audio visual room with a smart board and surround sound that can seat 50 students. Stay tuned for those photos!