Those of you who have followed this blog for some time know that my favorite stories are those about organizations that are brought to life by the inspiration of one individual who then acts upon his or her heartfelt compassion and acts on that emotion to make the world a better place. Well, I am sure that you have guessed by now, that this is one of those stories.
Book Aid International was founded in 1954 by Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly as the Ranfurly Library Service. Her husband was at that time Governor General of the Bahamas. During Lady Ranfurly's travels she became aware of the desperate shortage of books for children in the Bahamas. As a result of this experience, she instituted a process that brought donated book to that the Bahamian children. She began by asking her friends and contacts to send surplus books from the UK. These books were then re-distributed to schools and libraries that needed them. When Lady Ranfurly returned to the UK in the early 1960s she was asked by the then Colonial Secretary, Lord Boyd, to continue her efforts and indeed expand them to other parts of the developing world.
Today, in 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and in Palestine, Book Aid International is hard at work providing over half a million books and journals each year to libraries, hospitals, refugee camps and schools. This is because Lady Ranfurly's organization believes that books are the basic tools of literacy and education. And they are trying to get books to the millions of children and adults across the developing world do not have access to them.
This organization reminds us that not only to children need them to foster their education but farmers, nurses, mechanics, development workers and teachers all need them to support their work.
The bulk of the work of Book Aid International is in support of rural and urban libraries that provide free access to everyone. Partnering with libraries, Book Aid International helps them to develop their pivotal role in the community.
In pursuit of a long-term goal, Book Aid International is supporting the growth of local publishing and bookselling "so that affordable books can be produced which reflect the local languages and culture".
Lady Ranfurly incorporated this charity as a company limited by guarantee on 3 June 1966 as the Ranfurly Library Service. By 1994 the charity had sent an estimated 15 million books to over 70 countries worldwide and in January 1994 its name was changed to BOOK AID INTERNATIONAL to help raise awareness of the need for book aid, to heighten the profile of the organization for potential supporters and to give clarity in explaining what it does.
Lady Ranfurly passed away on 11 February 2001 but remained as President of the organization until that time. At the present time, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh is Patron of the organization.
Currently, for the three-year period of 2004 - 2006, Book Aid International has set new goals for itself and restructured the organisation to meet them. These areas in which it has set these goals (to paraphrase) are:
- Increase access to Books and Information
- Gain wider support for the Book Chain
- Increase the effectiveness of its Partnerships in working to achieve common goals
- Enhance Reading Promotion by more effectively reaching out to readers
- Promote Advocacy by increasing books and information for development
- Measuring Outcomes and Impact to enhance the role of evidence
- Enhance the Training and Learning of partners
- Continue Internal Development
Just to highlight a few of these goals, I will quote from Book Aid International's web site.
"Access to Books and Information"
"Book Aid International aims to increase opportunities for learning and personal development, and to strengthen the capacity of partner libraries to develop new ways of providing access to information
provide over two million good quality books and other materials in English and in African languages, targeted to meet community information needs support partner libraries to meet local needs in priority areas such as health, HIV-AIDS, vocational skills and African fiction, through purchase or donation of relevant materials from UK and African publishers work with partners to create attractive and vibrant libraries, by encouraging effective weeding, creative displays, outreach activities, adult literacy classes and other innovative services support partners to increase the availability and use of Internet and ICT in libraries advocate best practice among book donating agencies."
"Partnerships in working to achieve common goals"
"Book Aid International aims to work in partnership with those organisations overseas who are committed to meeting the information needs of disadvantaged communities, and with those organisations in both the south and north who can help us to deliver our mission more effectively
use partnership agreements with our library and book trade partners to ensure that programmes are focussed and effective work with partners who reach out to disadvantaged communities and provide services relevant to their needs develop country programmes in key sectors such as primary education, health, and human rights that contribute to development and have a direct impact on the reduction of poverty work to promote the interests of women and girls through all programmes develop strategic alliances, increase networking and the sharing of best practice."
"Training and Learning"
"We aim to learn together with partners, share best practice, and support partners in developing professional skills and creative and sustainable approaches to delivering services for their users
foster the conditions for reciprocal learning with partners support partners in meeting their training needs for professional development, management and leadership ensure training and learning is relevant to the local context, and helps equip partners with skills to meet the information needs of their communities on a sustainable basis."
I know that it has taken me a bit to get back to one of the original points, but I don't want to end this article without identifying the 18 sub-Saharan African countries that are aided by Book Aid International. Those nations are:
If you are interested in increasing the availability of books to children in these countries (all of them, or some of them) surf on over to Book Aid International and read more about this thriving organization that began just as the generous compassion of one person. And while you are there, give some thought to how much harder this world would be if it were not for people like Lady Ranfurly.
Book Aid International