My experience with the African Library Project was one of the most fascinating and rewarding things I have been a part of. My mother found out about the organization through the internet, and at first it sounded too good to be true. Anyone can get involved, and if you raise 1,000 children’s books and at least $500 for shipping, then these books can be shipped to an impoverished school in Africa in order to build a small library. It sounded like a daunting task, but it also sounded like a task that I wanted to accomplish.

As I explained on my gofundme website – “I believe that everyone, no matter where you grow up or what circumstances you live in, should be able to experience a childhood filled with the joy, mystery, magic, laughter, and discovery that comes along with reading. A lot of my earliest memories involve what I read when I was younger. I would gather up a stack of books (my favorites included Miss Rumphius, Strega Nona, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, etc.) and carry them to my mom or my aunt and spend mornings and evenings listening to the stories. These memories are so special to me, and I can’t imagine having a childhood with no books. If my African Library can bring to other children even a fraction of the joy reading brings to me, it will be the most fulfilling feeling in the world. Not to mention, this library could increase literacy among the kids in Africa who will receive the books, and perhaps they will be helped significantly in the long run.”

Here is a link to the website that I created in 2015: https://www.africanlibraryproject.org/book-drives/book-drives-in-action?alpdetail=670#.WRDz2Ma1vIU

I spread the word through Facebook and other forms of social media about my book drive. I also created a gofundme page for friends and family who wanted to help, but may not have been close enough to drop off books.

Here is the gofundme page: https://www.gofundme.com/8z6x85m24

I didn’t know what to expect. I figured it would be a long-term effort and that I would have to wait a while before reaching my ultimate goal of 1,000 books and $500. But I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support – from both friends and strangers – who donated generously through gofundme and who contacted me almost immediately saying that they had extra children’s books they would love to donate. A task that I figured would take months was accomplished in a single summer, and I can’t thank everyone who donated enough.

After updating the gofundme, driving around and picking up books, and counting/stacking all of the books in my living room, it was time to package them up and mail them out. We ended up with a ton of heavy boxes that almost didn’t fit in our van. We then brought them to the post office and shipped them. It was astounding to think eventually all of those books – that had brought so much happiness to their previous occupants from all over my hometown – would soon bring joy to young students in Botswana at the Mabuwe Primary School.

It was an amazing and humbling experience. I realized how often I take for granted things that seem so simple, like the picture books I read when I was a kid. Everyone should have the opportunity to laugh at Honey Bunny Funny Bunny or marvel at the beautiful illustrations in Miss Rumphius. The best part about being involved in the African Library Project was knowing that these children would have the chance to do just that.

I was also honored to be named a finalist for the Prudential Spirit of Community award for my work through the project: http://www.dailylocal.com/article/DL/20160217/NEWS/160219815

I am extremely grateful for everyone who helped me, and I encourage anyone who might be reading this to get involved with the organization. Here is a link to the website: https://www.africanlibraryproject.org/

Like it says on the site: we have the power to change lives, book by book.