On Thursday of this week I had a fortunate chance to attend a luncheon fundraiser for Books for Africa at Town and Country Club in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I’m guessing that many of you that are reading this post, have yet to hear this great story so let me indulge you for a few moments while you read pleasantly through this article with a Cheshire-like cat grin across your face.
Founded in 1988 by Tom Warth, Books For Africa is…”a simple name for an organization with a simple mission.” As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Books for Africa collects, sorts, ships, and distributes books to students of all ages in Africa, with the goal of ending not the food famine, but the book famine in Africa.
“One book is all it took to make a difference” ~ The Product Poet
Tom visited a Ugandan library, where books were almost nonexistent, inspiring him to create a system for collecting discarded books from American schools, libraries, and publishers to send to Africa. After his visit to a Ugandan library where books were nearly non-existent, once back home in Minnesota, Tom spoke with a group of publishers, booksellers, and librarians with a simple, yet the potential was profound solution to the book famine: reclaim good books destined for landfills and put them into the hands of African children.
Since 1988, Books For Africa remains the largest shipper of donated text and library books to the African continent, shipping over 32 million books to 49 different countries. Over the past 12 months, Books for Africa has shipped 2.6 million books, valued at $35 million to 27 African countries, with an additional 223 computers and 11 brand new law and human rights libraries. Without the generosity of many supporters and sponsors, such as Thomson Reuters, Atomic Data, Bremer Bank and many others, there would not have nearly been as many of books and computers to be sent to Africa, tackling one of the more important issues, illiteracy.
Former Mayor of Minneapolis, Sharon Sayles Belton introduced Oliver Wanekha, the Ambassador of Uganda to the United States, where Ambassasor Wanekha spoke of her own story of fighting illiteracy herself and fighting through gender barriers to learn how to read and more importantly teach people to read. Even her name, Oliver, which I always assumed was a male name, she indicated that her name was just like the line from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, “We want more.” Yes she was there to help raise money for Books for Africa and promote tourism and education opportunities for Africa, but this line resonated with me because each of us in life should ask of ourselves and demand of others that, “We want more.” I’m not talking about handouts here, but something more personal. Something more pure. “We want more” so we can give more. Pass along traditions of kindness and respect. To me, that is worth all the books worth their weight in gold.
I know that through my donations to Books of Africa (through my company and my real-self), myself and my colleagues are now responsible for 3,000 books that will eventually get in the hands of eager learners of Africa who will hopefully say, “We want more!”
You can find out more information on Books of Africa here, but why don’t you follow them on Twitter here and like their Facebook page here. Think how great you will feel knowing that: “One book is all it took to make a difference.”