The African Library Project – a nonprofit organization that coordinates book drives to build libraries in African nations – celebrated a significant milestone in January by sending its millionth children’s picture book to Africa. ALP relies on the efforts of volunteers in schools, clubs, community groups, and other organizations in the U.S. and Canada. Each book drive is matched with a specific community that has requested a library and has established a space to house the books, often through collaboration with Peace Corps workers and other partnering organizations. For each book drive, volunteers collect 1,000 gently used picture books from friends, family members, schools, local businesses, and other sources, and raise $500 to ship them. Book drive volunteers are invited to come up with creative ways to raise the funds – such as holding raffles, fashion shows, or garage sales – and can publicize and promote their book drives on the Africa Library Project Web site.
In the seven years that the African Library Project has been in existence, the organization has helped to open 900 libraries throughout nine African countries, with books contributed by more than 45,000 donors. “The power of books is hugely magnified in rural Africa where access to information is limited to mostly what your teacher can remember, since they often teach without a book,” says ALP founder Chris Bradshaw. “I’m very proud of our grassroots book drive organizers who are leading the charge in US and Canadian communities to offer the opportunities that books provide to those who have none. One million books is a lovely number!” But why stop there? The organization has already set its sights on distributing the next million books.