Books For Africa

week 42:  this week i'm gonna... end the book famine in Africa

photo credit: Judy Bowen

photo credit: Judy Bowen

In 1988, Tom Warth sold his automobile book publishing company and embarked upon a journey around the globe. One of his stops was Jinja, Uganda, where he had a friend named Loy Zabasajja. Although Jinja is the second largest city in Uganda, it is not often visited by tourists, but as Tom puts it, "I like adventure, and the best places to find it are remote spots with no tourists, but where you know someone."

Tom arrived at the airport in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, and headed for Jinja on the bus - as he describes it, “racing hell-bent for leather down the road while my driver took on another bus in a race.” Later, as he was wandering around Jinja with Loy, they came upon the local library. Tom took one look at the nearly empty shelves and the few scattered, tattered books that were all at least 25 years old and decided to do something about it.

 
The Jinja library as Tom found it in 1988

The Jinja library as Tom found it in 1988

 

Tom was inspired to create a system for collecting discarded books from American schools, libraries, and publishers to send to Africa. Back home in the U.S., he spoke with a group of publishers, booksellers, and librarians who make up the Minnesota Book Publishers’ Roundtable. A handful of people from this loose collection of book lovers met and formed what was to become Books For Africa.

The idea was so simple, yet the potential was profound. Reclaim good books destined for landfills and put them into the hands of African children.

"There are 500 million children in Africa. That's a lot of kids who need books and who need an education."

The Jinja Library, bustling with books and visitors in 1992

The Jinja Library, bustling with books and visitors in 1992


Books For Africa has shipped more than 36 million books to 49 different countries since inception in 1988. Their mission is simple - to end the book famine in Africa. They are the largest shipper of donated books to the African continent in the world, and they hope to create a culture of literacy and provide the tools of empowerment to the next generation of African parents, teachers, and leaders.

Books donated by publishers, schools, libraries, individuals, and organizations are sorted and packed by volunteers who carefully choose books that are age and subject appropriate. Books are then shipped in sea containers from the United States to Africa, where they are distributed to schools and community libraries across the continent. Over the past year, they have shipped 2.4 million books, 665 computers, and 200 e-readers containing 1.6 million digital books, as well as 5 new law and human rights libraries to 21 African countries. 

Books For Africa believes that education is the great equalizer of the
world, and that useful books are the foundation of a strong educational
system. You can see more about Books For Africa in the video below.


In February 2016, in honor of his 80th birthday, Tom led more than 25 people in a walk across the island of Zanzibar (off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa) to raise money and deliver books. Afterwards, he returned to the Jinja Library to celebrate the creation of Books For Africa there 28 years ago. He also brought new books to the library to ensure that their stock remains plentiful and relevant for students in Jinja. 

Tom enjoying the fruits of his labor

Tom enjoying the fruits of his labor

Reflecting back on the library that inspired his vision to end the book famine, Tom is proud of what has been accomplished, yet aware of how much work is left to be done. The more than 36 million books that have been delivered have provided educational empowerment to countless children and communities, but with over half a billion children on the African continent, there is still a pressing need for high quality books and learning materials. Tom's work won't be complete until every African has access to books.


Notes for this week:

  • Calling all Atlanta, GA area golfers! Books For Africa is hosting a golf tournament on Friday, November 4th, 2016; their goal is to raise $50,000 to deliver even more books to African students and communities in need.
  • Our collective givetwig donation will sponsor the shipment of almost 1,200 books to Africa.
  • For more information regarding Books For Africa, please check out their website.
 

this week i'm gonna donate to Books For Africa.

please share the givetwig awesomeness!