Our second Untold Profile is on Kwadwo Iveson Kumi, known to us as simply “Kumi”.
He’s the other librarian at Kasadwini Atenaeɛ, the language arts center that we’ve been building alongside the rural Ghanaian village of Asisiriwa. He’s a bright, sensitive, and soft-spoken guy who cares deeply about his community and is always looking for opportunities to learn and grow. He has a special place in our hearts, and I interviewed him recently to give you all the chance to know him a bit as well.
Kumi, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me. Now, you’re a native of Asisiriwa, right? How long has your family lived there?
Yeah, I’m a native of Asisiriwa and my family has lived here almost fifty years now.
So where are you currently working and what are you doing?
I’m currently working in Brodekwano [a nearby village] as a teacher in a preparatory school.
Students playing in front of the primary school
Cool. So in your own words, how would you describe the village of Asisiriwa?
The village of Asisiriwa have a population of about 1,500 peoples in Asisiriwa right now, including childrens and women. Containing over 250 buildings, and there is one school in Asisiriwa. Good reception, and they have…the street and everything is very cool. Asisiriwa is a very good place for people who have a good manner, like hospitality – they are very good in hospitality. Everyone that come to Asisiriwa always feels good and happy to stay with them because they like peoples and they are sociable. That’s what I can say about Asisiriwa.
I know you and your family experienced a tragedy very recently. Would you feel comfortable telling the story of what happened?
Yeah, I feel comfortable of telling the grief that we – me and my family – went through in…May, the month of May. My father was everything to our family. He’s very nice, capable of doing everything for we to be happy. So, in the month of March, he fell sick. So, it was very sad that my father, who always do everything by hisself, couldn’t do anything. So, he was being in the hospital for almost two months. One day he came home and he said we shouldn’t waste our money on him and we should pray for him just like that. So…that was a blow to the entire family, because we know that what he was saying, he have seen something, that maybe he is going to join the ancestors. So, on the 14th of May, he passed out. It was a grief and so sad moment for the entire family. And that’s it.
Wow, that’s really terrible. I’m sorry that you had to go through that. Do you mind sharing how you’ve been able to navigate that grief and how you’ve handled the tragedy of losing your father?
It not easy for you to lose a father. And…words cannot explain how painful it was for being and losing your father. I was able to navigate all this grief – even you are part of my grief counselor. When I was talking to you, you give me so many things, ‘cause you advise me how to go through this. And my friends also – because that time I don’t even feel like even talking to someone, ‘cause all my heart was full of sorrow and…and my ego and my emotion was spent. As I was saying, words cannot even explain this. I will give thanks to my friends also who always being my side. I started reading some books when I’m alone and feeling sad, I just listen to some cool songs and always watch some movies that have a funny – a comedy, comedy movies. Movie like The Wedding Ringer also helped me, how he become a wedding ringer [chuckles]. And Mary also always advised me with this one. That is it.
Kumi & Mary: the librarians at Kasadwini Atenaeɛ
Thanks for that. You’ve shown a lot of courage in working through your grief. I’m again very, very sorry for your loss, but I’m very proud of you for pushing through. You just recently told me about a new personal goal of yours. Would you describe what it is and why you want to do it?
A world without ICT [Information and Communications Technology] – I don’t know while this 21st century would do. Or world without this technology – I don’t what this will do or also go through. I don’t know whether the 15th century of this kind of stuff, I don’t what they are doing. So I want to be an IT expert. Clement Quist has been my role model for the past nine years right now, and he is an IT expert also. Due to that, he is my role model. I check and see…without ICT in my life, I don’t what my life will be. And Asisiriwa here, we don’t have an ICT expert in Asisiriwa right now. Even the minor-minor and petty-petty thing that my role model told me, about Quist told me or teach me…when Quist leave here, people always come to me and I’m using it here. So if I sit down and check if I become and ICT expert, I can able to develop Asisiriwa and also put into some people here. And since Quist leave here – in Asisiriwa here – to live in a different community, the teaching of ICT in Asisiriwa here has gone down, because we’re learning that those who went to write their Basic Education Certificate Examinations this year was finding difficult to answer some of the cheap-cheap-cheap questions under ICT, as I compare to when Quist was here it was very good. So I’m going to do that: to come back and develop Asisiriwa, because right now they are building a new ICT laboratory for Asisiriwa, but they don’t have someone who will be there for Asisiriwa. So it’s a one-year intensive course that is organized by West Africa Examination Council, and I want to put myself in and I want to help my community. That’s why I’ve decided to do that course also: to help my community and to develop Asisiriwa also.
That’s very cool. I’m excited to see how that goes and where it takes you. So how did you get involved with Untold International and the language arts center called Kasadwini Atenaeɛ?
When I was in Asisiriwa, I saw the seal of Untold International, and I don’t know what they are coming to do. That time, I don’t know what you, my boss, Brady, is coming to do in Asisiriwa. So I ask my role model, Clement Quist, “What’s this foreign people doing in Asisiriwa?” and he say, “Oh, okay, this could be your chance! Because we know you in Asisiriwa in 2009 – the best student in Asisiriwa, you and Mary.” So he said, “Okay, if you want to join this, I will introduce you to them.” So one day, he said, “Okay, there is interview going on, so you and Mary – you and someone – is going” (at that time, I don’t know it’s Mary) so he says “you and someone is going to an interview, and they want one person.” So I say, “Okay.” He said, “I know you people are very intelligent, so they are going to pick one.” And I was very nervous, because I know Mary to be the best English in my class, and I’m also the best Mathematics in my class also, so this is a white people, what am I going to do?! [Laughs] So I came to the interview, you interview us, and you said you want us. So that led me to know the Untold International. So Clement introduced me to Untold International.
From left to right: Kumi, Quist, and Mary
Nice! And what is your role at Kasadwini Atenaeɛ?
My role in Kasadwini Atenaeɛ is to supervise and welcome every student or every person that come to the library. And I’m also like a machine to the Kasadwini Atenaeɛ. The reason I’m saying I’m like a machine to Kasadwini Atenaeɛ is to make sure that everyone that come to the Kasadwini Atenaeɛ, if the person need any help in there, I’m the one responsible to help that person and make sure that every book in Kasadwini Atenaeɛ must be cleaned, and I have to make sure that there will not be a dirty in Kasadwini Atenaeɛ. And to organize an event every month to see whether the Kasadwini Atenaeɛ is helping the people in Asisiriwa and the other villages around Asisiriwa.
Why did you want to be a librarian at the center?
I decided to be a librarian in the center because in all my life I like helping peoples to understand how the world really going, to put education in someone’s mind. So when I come to Asisiriwa, my chance of being, teaching as a professional teacher in Ghana, was somehow not really working for me, because there is no money at the moment, and even when I get a chance of pursuing my education, I just get back on something. And it give me the opportunity when I come to Asisiriwa, Clement introduce me to this, and give me the opportunity that, okay, on all my dreams that I want to help some peoples in Asisiriwa or some peoples in the world by putting education in their mind, this is the way I can start it. Because at first I was teaching as a part-time teacher for some students in Asisiriwa and I went to Accra to do some petty trading and I came back, so helping people is my first priority in life. And I know that being as a librarian will also help me to help so many peoples in life, because as I like education, I also want people also to like education.
Kumi jumped on the roof to volunteer with attaching the sheet metal
What do you think of the design of the center?
The design of the center is very nice! From my perspective, it’s very nice. Because I always like blue color and yellow color, so since it is being painted yellow and blue, it’s bright and everyone talk about it in this community, even so many compliments about it. They like it, they like the design. Even the metal roofing and the fiberglass that is used, even to create the center – I like the painting and the design, and the kind that they are going to use for the door and the windows… It’s going to improve the literacy center. I like the design, everything about it is very perfect. Thanks for even choosing that color and that design also.
I’m glad you like it! Do you think the people of Asisiriwa are excited for Kasadwini Atenaeɛ to open?
They are very excited about it and they want it to be open because, since they know me being connected to you, sometime they ask me, “When are you going to open this? We want to come there!” So they use it here and other peoples also even ask so they are waiting for it to be open. They are happy, they are happy here.
What effects do you think Kasadwini Atenaeɛ will have on Asisiriwa and the villages surrounding it?
Kasadwini Atenaeɛ will help Asisiriwa and the villages around Asisiriwa because I know reading help you to influence the language, I mean any kind of language that you are learning. Reading this book or this language book will help you to become fluent in that language. So it help the student also in Asisiriwa to learn and many other, because when they close from school, they don’t have anything to do. So all that they do is with going, playing football, and peoples who…doing nothing. Reading will help you – picture you – to know every world, because I have not been to – let me say – America before, but I can talk about America because of reading some books and…it will help Asisiriwa very well. It will increase people’s language in English and they will become fluent in English, as well as the Twi – they should know how to write the Twi and how to write the good English.
I know that some people in Asisiriwa definitely see the value in education, while others don’t seem to. Do you think it will be difficult to get people in Asisiriwa to use Kasadwini Atenaeɛ?
I don’t think it will be difficult to find peoples in Asisiriwa to use Kasadwini Atenaeɛ, because what I have seen in Asisiriwa peoples is they always like something new. So if something new opens in Asisiriwa, they always try to use it. They try to see what it is inside, so it will be our job to make them even feel good when they come there, to get understanding of what Kasadwini Atenaeɛ is coming to do for them. So it will not be difficult, because since they want it to open, people are asking so many questions about, “When are you going to be opening?” So when it will open, it will not be difficult to use Kasadwini Atenaeɛ. The way we will announce it and the way we will advertise it, will always influence people to join it also. The first people that will come there, or the number of people that will come there first place, if they get to know what is inside Kasadwini Atenaeɛ, they will go and spread the good news to others. So I don’t think it will be difficult for us to get peoples in Asisiriwa to use Kasadwini Atenaeɛ. They will all join us – even those who don’t understand will join us. I know the number will continue increasing day in and day out when the Kasadwini Atenaeɛ opens.
Do you have any ideas for events you want to put on in the library?
What I have in my mind is – the first event that I’m going to organize for the peoples in Asisiriwa – from three years to nine years, I will just give them the drawing sheet and a pencil and then a color for them to draw what they have read, or what they can see around the Kasadwini Atenaeɛ. And for those from ten years to eighteen years, since they are developing their mind, I will just ask them to think of what they can write – anything that come to their mind – they will have to write it down for us to check if they are getting an interest or getting a benefit from the literacy center Kasadwini Atenaeɛ.
Another idea that I have in my mind is: maybe one day the event will be organizing from another literacy center around Ghana, maybe connecting us to the Osu Children’s Library, so that we will connect to them, and one day we organize some literacy day for them, or maybe another event for both of them. And it will help we the village, we peoples around Asisiriwa – the towns and villages around Asisiriwa – how teaching and learning is going on in the city, and it will improve them and they will connect to them, and having friends in the city. That’s another idea I have in my mind.
If you would like to sponsor Kumi or help him achieve any of his goals, please go here to make a tax-deductible donation. Thanks for reading, and be on the lookout for more Untold Profiles in the future!