STORYMOJA’S CREATIVE HOLIDAY CAMP EARNS PARENTS’ AND KIDS’ PRAISE// By Margaretta wa Gacheru. PUBLISHED in business daily, august 9, 2013/// Muthoni Garland is one member of Kenya’s emerging ‘creative economy’ who is not only innovative, enterprising and artistic; she is also a pragmatist who understands that people normally buy necessities first and luxuries after that. The founder of StoryMoja Publishers also knows that not every Kenyan feels reading is a necessity, which is one reason why she campaigns for a ‘reading revolution’ in Kenya and why she encourages school children not just to read but to write books of their own. She’s even launched a program to stimulate schools to ‘start a library’ on their sites and offers tangible ‘how to’ assistance as well. But one thing most parents do feel a need for during school holidays especially is to find creative ways to entertain their children during the break. Keeping kids busy—and safe—between school terms is a special challenge for working parents, since they don’t want their children getting into trouble nor do they want them to be bored sitting at home. Muthoni’s been musing over this problem for some time and with her Storymoja team came up with the concept of a ‘creative arts holiday camp’, which she tested out earlier this year in two pilot programs: one at Riara School for three Saturdays in May and early June attended by 75 children; the other at Peponi Primary over a two day period for children in standards four through seven. “The idea was to find out what children are interested in,” said Muthoni who also authors books of her own, [like The Battle of the Shidas] under her maiden name Muchemi. That was done during the pilot by running a series of creative workshops and asking children what they liked doing best: Was it storytelling, dance, art and illustration, theatre, poetry and performance, song writing or creative writing generally? Or did they like the practice of ‘publishing your own book in two hours’? The students’ response was overwhelmingly positive. They liked everything but they also wanted a workshop on public speaking. The result from running those pilots and listening to the children’s (not just parents’ or the teachers’) points of view is a series of Creative Arts August Holiday Camps, which will start next Monday in the Curiosity Centre at the StoryMoja offices in Spring Valley. Aimed at inspiring confidence, creative and critical thinking among youth (ages 11-14), the first of three 30-hour Camps will run from next Monday through Friday, August 12th through 16th. Two more camps are scheduled for the following two weeks. “So far, the response from both children and parents has been good,” said Muthoni who added that children especially want to do creative writing in both English and Kiswahili. And parents are pleased to find their children will be engaged in creative and fun activities that are also educational over the school break. One added bonus Muthoni plans to have during every camp is for a published writer to attend a storytelling session and share a bit of his or her writing. Recently, Storymoja conducted a storytelling session at the Michael Joseph Centre in which the award-winning Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina shared his writing with the youth. “We also intend to invite 14 year old Vaishnavi Ram Mohan whose first book, The Incredible Adventures of Pisho Pencil was published when she was just 12,” added Muthoni who also encourages children to write their own stories and send them to email@example.com for possible publication. Each 30-hour Holiday Camp will cost KSh15,000. Meanwhile, Muthoni and her staff are putting finishing touches on the 2013 Storymoja Hay Festival, which will run from September 19th through 22nd and feature no less than 40 events, getting bigger and better every year. The Nairobi National Museum will again host the Festival which was launched in 2008 by Muthoni after she attended the original Hay Festival that takes place annually in the UK. Seen as a four day celebration of Kenyans’ stories and contemporary culture, the festivities include storytelling, book fairs, lively fora featuring writers from all over the world, workshops, debates and discussion, live music and stage performances as well as literary competitions And like the original Hay Festival, the Storymoja fete will also feature a wide array of political and socio-economic as well as cultural events. The central theme of this year’s celebration will be ‘Imagine a World.’ Business-wise, there will be workshops and panels on a range of topics including a talk about Kenyan businesses that have gone global and career options for all ages.