Monday, May 23, 2005


In its Mission Statement, Books For Africa says that it has "A simple name for a simple organization with a simple mission." That mission, it goes on to state is to: "collect, sort, ship and distribute books to children in Africa." Period.

In an effort to end what they term the "book famine in Africa" Books For Africa says that THAT IS ALL THEY DO. But that is QUITE A LOT.

With the help of volunteers they collect books donated by publishers, schools, libraries, individuals and organizations. They then sort and pack those books that are carefully examined and found to be age and subject appropriate.

Books For Africa does not just send a few books at a time; they send enough books for a whole class to use. And the books that they send are good books.

Anybody that has tried to carry out a book project that involves the collection and shipping of books learns quickly that the difficulty is in the shipping. Books, especially in large numbers, are heavy, and they have to be shipped IN something. It is not easy to get large numbers of books from point A to point B without considerable effort and expense. Books For Africa makes it clear that shipping is the program's largest expense.

Books For Africa ships their books in containers that are paid for by public contributions. And at the approximate cost of 38 U.S. cents to ship a book from a United States port to Africa, a lot of public contributions are needed.

The effectiveness of Books For Africa in getting these contributions is attested to by the fact that it has shipped more than 10 million books to Africa since 1988.

The books that are collected come from public and private schools, libraries, as well as from publishers and the general public and they range from primary to post secondary levels.

All of the books are transported to Books For Africa's warehouse in St. Paul, Minnesota where they are sorted and processed for shipping by volunteers. The books leave St. Paul 25,000 at a time in sea containers that are 20-feet long. The price tag on shipping these containers full of books runs at about U.S.$8000 each.

Once the books arrive at their destination in Africa a BFA partner takes delivery and is responsible for seeing that the books are delivered to the appropriate schools and libraries. The BFA partners are non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as local YMCAs, Catholic and Protestant Church Dioceses, local member clubs of Rotary International to give a partial list. But the partner organizations are not just the distributors of the books, they usually finance the shipping as well, and as Books For Africa reports "either on their own, or with a financial sponsor." And the state that: " In some cases, when need can be demonstrated, BFA will provide matching funds for a portion of the shipping costs.

Books for Africa also works with non-profit organizations in the United states as well. Three of the organizations which have been written about in this BLOG have benefited from the work of Books for Africa. SAFE has had books shipped with the help of Books for Africa, Better World Books has collected and sent thousand of books to Books for Africa to be shipped on to Africa and the student group at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. known as "Books For Africa Student Organization" has had twice annual book drive on its campus and shipped the volumes on to Books for Africa with the help of Better World Books. There is more on all of these organizations in the BLOG archives.

Books For Africa a non-profit (501.c.3) organization got it start in 1988 after its founder, Tom Warth, made a commitment to create a system for collecting discarded books from American schools, libraries and publishers and send to Africa.

Tom was inspired to make this commitment after he visited a library in the town of Jinja, Uganda and found the books that it had so few book, and those there were on the shelves were in extremely poor condition. Jinja is no minuet village. It's actually the second largest city in the nation of Uganda.

When he got back home to Minnesota he spoke to a group known as the "Minnesota Book Publishers' Roundtable." This led to the genesis of Books For Africa.

As you can learn from their web site, to date, "Books For Africa has shipped books to the countries of Botswana, Cameroon, Eritrea, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe." The web site even has a map for their visitors to visualize the countries that have received their donated books. .

While Books For Africa has made millions of volumes available to African children, they realize that they still have much work ahead of them in combating the "book famine in Africa." remains a reality. BFA cites the statistic that: it is common across the continent to see five or six school children sharing one book in schools and empty library shelves are a constant reminder of Africa's desperate need for printed materials.

Books For Africa plans to send millions more volumes to Africa, and if you want to be a part of that, visit them at their website:
and find out about what you can do to help.

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