One of the wonderful organizations we have been fortunate enough to work with is Books for Africa. Please read on to hear from Books for Africa's Executive Director Patrick Plonski, and to learn more about this amazing not for profit and the work that they do.
Please tell me a little bit about Books for Africa.
Books For Africa is the largest shipper of donated text and library books to the Africa continent, shipping over 22 million books to schools and libraries in 45 African countries since 1988.
How was Books for Africa founded?
BFA was established with our founder, Tom Warth, visited a library in Jinja, Uganda in 1988. The library had no books. Since he was involved in the publishing business, he came home to Minnesota and ran a book drive with some of his publishing friends and they sent a few bags of books. It was so well-received, that they set up a non-profit, Books For Africa, and kept going. That was 22 million books ago!
Since its creation, how has Books for Africa impacted the community it serves?
It is hard to describe a community without a library or books of any kind. It is even more odd to describe a community library or a school library that has the building and the shelves, but no books. It is like these people are deprived of what so many of us take for granted. But more than books, what we provide to the kids we serve in Africa is opportunity. Books provide literacy which provides education which provides opportunity to improve lives. You can’t believe the excitement of the kids when they open boxes of books that we shipped. They are excited because they know that they will be able to have fun reading books, but also be able to have some education and move their lives forward.
Please tell us how Books for Africa has personally affected your life?
It has been a great honor to serve as the director of Books for Africa. If a day does not go the way I would like it to go, I can still say to myself “Hey, at least I helped send that container of 22,000 books to Africa today, and that’s a good thing.”
Could you please share an anecdote about someone who's life has been positively affected by Books for Africa?
I remember visiting a school in Eshowe, South Africa a few years ago. We were visiting a book distribution site and bringing a few more books. There was singing and dancing and so much excitement. And I thought, wow, I wonder what would happen if there were this much excitement when books are delivered to a school in the United States?
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
Just that a book can change a person’s life. I have some of my favorite books, and I sometimes re-read the parts I love best. I also remember as a kid growing up on the farm reading books and going to the library because I knew there was a bigger world out there and books were the way to get to that world. Please help us to open these doors to the larger world to these kids in Africa.