Guest blogger, Coy Cross shares his introduction to the African Library Project and how he went for a one-time book drive organizer to send over 30,000 books to African youth.
In March 2009, our friend Kay left to serve in the PeaceCorps in Lesotho, a small African country that I had not heard of before then. A few months later an e-mail from Kay invited me to join the African Library Project (an organization I also had never heard of) to create a school library for children in Lesotho who had no books.
To continue their education beyond primary school, the children must pass an exam in English, their country’s official language, but not the children’s primary language. As a kid growing up in rural Kentucky, I remembered how precious books had been to me and readily agreed. My wife, meanwhile, had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and I was her caregiver. But gathering books and asking friends for financial support was something I could do while still being available to support her. With the help of a friend, I collected hundreds of books, but some were not appropriate for a school library. I talked with a local, used bookstore owner and learned I could swap adult books for others that elementary-aged children would enjoy. So by September 2009, I had over 1,000 books and about $500 to pay for shipping to Lesotho.
Many years before a friend had shared her three rules for happiness: someone to love, something to look forward to, and something meaningful to do. I found sending books to children, who had little access to reading material, was truly “something meaningful to do.” I smiled when Chris, ALP’s founder, posted on Facebook a picture of the shipload of containers heading for Africa. And, I have to confess I teared-up when I saw photographs of people in Lesotho unpacking books that I had sent. The warm feeling of helping beautiful children have a better life inspired me to create another library and then another.
In 2012 I fulfilled my dream of traveling to Africa and meeting the volunteers working with the schools in Malawi. I also had the opportunity to visit several schools and see the precious children, many of whom had been orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. I also met teachers, who, before receiving books from the African Library Project, taught their “learners” (I love this word) to read without books. I quickly realized the true value of the books I’d been sending. Looking at these beautiful faces, I was filled with love and gratitude for the opportunity to help improve their chances for a better life.
Now, almost ten years and 25-30 libraries and about 30,000 books later, I still find helping place books into the hands of children who have none is “something meaningful to do.” I have moved twice in the interim and needed to find new sources for books. Fortunately, I have a school principal daughter and other teacher friends, who can pass on books that have been replaced, and another used-book store that is supportive.
Sending books to children who truly need them has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Also, age is not a limitation for making a difference in the world. I’m 81 years old and I just signed up to help create another library in Malawi in June of this year.
Start Your Own Book Drive
Read our Book Drive Guidelines to learn all you need to know to collect, sort, pack and then mail your books to our warehouse, where they will be containerized for shipment to Africa. Your goal is to collect 1,000 appropriate books and approximately $500 for shipping and related costs. Double this and you can start two! Triple it and… you get the idea. To get ideas from other book drives — how they’ve collected their books and raised their funds.
We ship books all year round. Our typical calendar is:
- Ghana in February
- Botswana in March
- Malawi in June
- Kenya in July
- Uganda in August
- Lesotho in September
- Sierra Leone in October
- eSwatini (Swaziland) in November