On July 4th, 2017 Philip Dimka was amongst several young people who were gathered at American Space, Jos to commemorate the celebration of American Independence. In the heat of the conversations that day, a quote was shared by one of the speakers; “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” These were the words of former American President John F Kennedy.

Instantly, Philip posted on Facebook “I am starting a community Library in the heart of my local community! How many of you friends & teachers, will key into the vision by praying & donating A BOOK. This is for real, we must reverse the rut/rot”.

At that moment, Jenta Reads Community Initiative was born.

Before this day, Philip Dimka had been meeting with a group of friends regularly at a church fellowship in Jenta Mangoro. This group of young men and women formed the core team that will push this vision.

The adventure began with no fanfare, no safety net, no assurance, no funds…. But with prayer and hope that whatever it takes, the narrative must be changed. Jenta had long been known for drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, thuggery, theft, high rates of school dropout, and violence. After a few months, the team received the donation from the small personal library of Mr. Justin, a resident of Jenta.

While all of this was going on, an unlikely friendship with an American had begun on Facebook. Thaine Norris became friends with the core team of Jenta Reads. In 2018, he visited Jenta Reads with books, and most importantly, he brought a much-needed boost to the reputation of the Jenta Reads effort. Since then he has visited Jenta at least twice every year.

Thaine Norris with some community members during his first visit.

In June 2018 the Jenta Reads Team won the Selfless 4 Africa and Abuja Global Shapers, Emerging Leaders Program Grant which provided a 1.1 Million Naira funding that was used to obtain a 3 room space that has been used as the library ever since. So far, the library is stocked with more than 7,000 books, recording an average of 4,320 book borrows annually. The library has become a rallying point for the community providing a safe space for recovering drug abuse, a hub for community conversations, a mobilization point for community effort, a conducive reading environment for school children, and a hub for teaching several handy skills for community members such as soap making, chess, bead making, etc.

Jenta Reads Team represented at the pitching where 1.1 Million Naira was won

Jenta Reads uses film shows, drama, debates and funfair to encourage reading and build a reading culture within the community. Inspiring movies such as The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind and Queen Of Katwe have been used to inspire young people and school children, thereby encouraging the habit of reading.

In 2019, Lengdung Tungchamma, a Co-founder of Jenta Reads delivered a Ted Talk at TedX Unijos. about the work, Jenta Reads is doing. Jenta Reads has become an inspiration within the social space in Jos, and Nigeria as a whole, providing inspiration, mentorship, and support for 8 libraries and reading clubs.

The team is always looking for ways to serve this community and to change the narrative of this once GRA, Government Rejected Area. Jenta Reads also embarks on other projects such as medical outreach, Small Scale Business Fund, Send A Child To School, anti-drug abuse campaigns, menstrual hygiene session, community sanitation, distribution of food and relief materials, amongst others. 

We have partnered with more than 30 organizations, visited more than 20 schools, and continue to solve the problems within our community. But this is day one, there is still work that needs to be done! The goal is to use education to change the narrative of a slum community, we are not there yet but by God, we will get there!

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