In a busy Indian grocery store in the heart of San Jose, California, the air was filled with aromatic spices and the shelves were stocked with colorful items. A young boy explored the aisles, holding The Lost Hero in one hand and pushing the cart with another.

That boy was me, Krish Nachnani. Books were my constant companions from as early as I can remember. I’d avidly read 30 to 40 books during summer breaks, with every tale transporting me to distant lands and igniting my imagination. But when the COVID-19 pandemic closed our community and school libraries, I realized the importance of holding a physical book and turning its pages. Despite the availability of online resources, nothing quite matched the experience of a book in hand. It was a stark reminder of the privilege I held growing up in America.

Then, in the summer of 2020, my Dad introduced me to the African Library Project (ALP). I instantly connected with their mission of changing lives book by book and wanted to get involved. Since then, I’ve organized four book drives, sending books to libraries in Ghana, Botswana, and Kenya. What began as a personal quest soon became a cherished summer family tradition, alongside other adventures.

I wanted more children to hear about ALP and organize book drives in their communities. So last year, I worked with my high school classmates in a Business & Entrepreneurship class to draft a marketing plan to improve ALP’s website and social media presence. I am thankful to ALP’s Executive Director for spending some time with us and providing us with guidance and feedback. To put this plan into action, I created a marketing video for ALP that was posted on Instagram to build awareness about ALP’s participation in the 2023 Berkeley Book Festival.

ALP has knowledgeable and helpful container manager volunteers who provide support every step along the way and the website/email instructions are incredibly user-friendly. I have learned a lot through my volunteer experience. In addition to feeling blessed to be able to contribute and make a small difference, I have learned how to stay organized; pack and ship boxes; communicate with book donors, local librarians, and bookstore owners; and host lemonade stands with friends to raise funds for shipping. This has inspired two of my family friends to organize their own book drives in their communities and schools.

I plan to stay involved with ALP and highly encourage every elementary to high school student in America to join this important mission to create, improve, and sustain libraries in African communities and change lives book by book.

Please sign up here to organize your first book drive in 2024, or, if you are like me, make this a part of your annual family and community tradition!