Thursday, December 22, 2005


Before the year ends, I want to revisit those organizations that provide books and computers to recipients.

During the year, I wrote about seven organizations that provide books to developing countries. I do not doubt that there are more of these organizations and also there are many organizations that are not organized solely for this purposes but make book donations. So, while this article does not exhaust the list of donors of books, it might help the reader as a starting point if the reader is seeking such a donor.

Also, the organizations mentioned here have different missions and goals, and while they all seek to provide books to people and communities that might not otherwise have access to them, they all have different criteria and methods for doing what they do.

The very first organization featured in this blog was the Sudan-American Foundation For Education, Inc. (SAFE) . This organization was begun in 1985 by both Americans and Sudanese educators, business people, public officials and other concerned individuals who seek to acquire books and other educational materials that meet the specific needs identified by Sudanese librarians and educators so that efforts and resources are not wasted collecting and shipping resources that are not appropriate.

They try to maximize the use of donated services in order to reduce the expense of carrying out its project so as to maximize the effectiveness of the funds collected from the public and to make the operation as cost effective as possible.

SAFE has obtained donations of books, journals, and educational equipment and supplies worth more than $2.5 million and made 28 shipments of donated material to Sudan. The contents of those shipments were distributed to more than 40 universities, colleges and libraries.

According to the SAFE Website, the organization has delivered over 191,000 books and nearly 70,000 issues of scientific, medical, and scholarly journals and a variety of equipment (computers, CD-ROM drives and discs, typewriters, calculators) and supplies.


A Student Group at George Washington University, which calls itself " Books For Africa Student Organization " collects and sends college level books to various African communities for use in community libraries and educational centers. The group was organized in October 2002 and since its founding, Books For Africa Student Organization has collected and delivered over 35,000 volumes to the Continent.

They collect books not only from George Washington University but they have also gotten them from the campuses of Georgetown, George Mason, John Hopkins and James Madison Universities as well. In 2004 a chapter of the organization was even founded on at James Madison University and they hope to create additional chapters in the near future.

This highly motivated students organize two book drives each year, one in May and the other in December. They chose these times because that is when students have finished with their books for the semester at their University. This way the are able to collect books that students might otherwise discard at the end of each semester in order to reduce the weight of the luggage to be shipped home.

Books For Africa Student Organization also keeps a calendar of their book drives posted on their web site as well as a brief "How To" for campus book drives.


I have written about SABRE , a Cambridge, Massachusetts based organization twice this year for several reasons. One reason is because Sabre is very unique in that it provides its recipient partners with a choice of the books that they have in inventory in their warehouse. Another reason is because the books they offer are new. And thirdly, because they operate a highly efficient operation with a very small staff.

Sabre has been distributing books around the world since it was started Book Donation Program in 1986 and has now shipped over $200,000,000 worth of new books and other educational materials to more than 80 countries.

Since 2001 most of Sabre's book shipments have gone to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. These books are usually new college- and professional-level titles, but it also has high school, elementary and pre-school materials as well.

Their "demand driven" program allows overseas partners to select the CD-ROMs and new, high quality and up-to-date books that they want from an inventory list that is sent to them electronically. The donors of the volumes to Sabre are publishers, and that is the reason for the quality condition of the books.

Sabre is not only a 501(c)(3) organization but it is also registered as a Private Voluntary Organization with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Sabre has also in active in distributing books in the Islamic world. They have attended Book Fairs in both Algeria and in Morocco.

The second article on SABRE focused on the efficiency of their operation and why their demand driven operation is a sound approach. In addition to its demand driven approach, it talked about its streamlined staff and its demand that its recipient partners take on certain responsibilities of the various projects to ensure the effectiveness of the operation.

In this second article, I suggested that Sabre could be used by organizations just starting to provide resources and aid to developing countries.


Better World Books has only been around since 2003, but since that time, they have collected over 600,000 books and funded the shipping of 500,000 books to Africa in partnership with Books For Africa.

This organization has done this by mobilizing approximately 300 university campuses to run books drives around the country. They target the books that students are unable to sell back to their campus bookstores. Natasha Harris, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for Better World Books says "Although these books are considered to be 'dead' or of 'no-value,' we know that there is a great deal that can be done with them in fighting against global illiteracy."

Better World Books helps to maximize the effectiveness of the campus book drives by providing the student groups conducting the drives with shipping materials such as: cartons, tape, shipping labels. They also provide them with marketing materials: posters, flyers and buttons. In addition to this, Better World Books offers guidance and advice to campus organizations in order to help make their book drives a success.
In addition to donating books to African communities, Better World Books has helped to build libraries in Nepal, India, Cambodia, Vietnam as well as other Asian countries and they have also partnered with local libraries in the U.S. and Goodwill Industries.

In its "Fall 2004 Newsletter" Books For Africa recognized Better World Books as its largest single donor for Fiscal Year 2005 with cash donations totaling $67,100 as well as helping Books For Africa collect 10 million books, a goal that was reached in October 2004.


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.

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.

Their web site states that 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.


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.

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.

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

Eighteen 18 sub-Saharan African countries are aided by Book Aid International.


CODE was founded in 1959 as "Books for Developing Countries" it changed its name once more before becoming "CODE" in 1982. By 1970 it had become a registered charitable organization under the name "Overseas Book Centre" (OBC)

By the time it was renamed CODE, the organization was shipping more than 20 tons of books each year to 85 countries. And in that same year, it expanded the items shipped to pencils, audio-visual equipment and typewriters.

A Canadian charitable organization with over 40 years in experience in promoting education and literacy in the developing world, CODE seems to have a formula for success.

Having been awarded the UNESCO International Prize for Literacy in 1987 and the Government of Canada's Literacy Innovation Award in 1999, in addition to many other awards, it is clear that CODE's value to the global community has been recognized.

CODE's Vision is "To support a sustainable literate environment in the developing world." And its Mission Statement is "Enabling people to learn by developing partnerships that provide resources for learning, promote awareness and understanding, and encourage self-reliance."



GWU - Books For Africa Student Organization



Better World Books

Books For Africa

Book Aid International


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Oscar
Xavier of Better World Books drew my attention to the fine story on BOOKS FOR AFRICA which I founded, as you note, back in 1988.
There is one more organization which should be in your list. THE INTERNATIONAL BOOK BANK of Baltimore does fine work and I was board president for a number of years. The executive director is Brad Vogt at and the web site is at
Many thanks for the good work you are doing.
Tom Warth

Thomas E & Zantha LaFon Warth
200 Second Street
Marine on St Croix, Minnesota, 55047, USA
651-433-3027 Cell 612-801-5335
Visit them at