We regularly say that our work isn’t possible without the generosity of the publishing industry and this really is true. Without the books they donate, we wouldn’t have anything to send to our partners in sub-Saharan Africa. But publishers’ support goes way beyond simply supplying us with books – we’re constantly overwhelmed by the willingness of publishers to go that extra mile to help us broaden and extend our work.
One such publisher is Oxford University Press (OUP). We have enjoyed a long-term relationship with OUP. In August 2014, OUP got in touch to say it had over 120,000 books to donate in one go. However, due to the generosity of other publishers around the same time, we didn’t have room for them all in our warehouse. To help us get around this problem, OUP agreed to split the donation, shipping over half of the books directly to one of our partners in Cameroon (normally, books that publishers donate come into our warehouse and we sort, pick and pack them ourselves before shipping them).
OUP staff picked and packed the books for us and also labelled the boxes in their warehouse. This was a huge amount of extra work on our behalf – going through the books they had offered us and picking out the books which we had chosen for our partner in Cameroon. We were then able to take the remaining books into our warehouse.
The books shipped directly to Cameroon were received by our partner Education Information Services International (EISERVI), an NGO based in Yaounde. EISERVI works in all ten regions of Cameroon and is committed to maximising access to education and information and supports community and council libraries, and libraries in schools, orphanages and prisons throughout the country. This donation was a first for EISERVI, being the largest single donation that they have ever received in one consignment. The books arrived with EISERVI on Christmas Day and Andrew Nyenty, Executive Director of EISERVI described it as a “Santa Claus gift to EISERVI at the end of 2014.”
To celebrate such a significant donation, EISERVI held a special ceremony, where samples of OUP’s books were exhibited, to present the books to all the recipient schools and libraries, attended by national dignitaries including representatives from the Ministry of Basic Education, Ministry of Youth and the Hon Member of Parliament for Yaounde VI. It also received extensive media coverage including pieces on allAfrica and Kumbazine.
This split donation from OUP was not only a useful pilot which enabled us to see that direct shipments were possible but also made a significant contribution to our one million books achievement in 2014 – without a donation of this size being sent directly, it wouldn’t have been possible.
Since then, these innovations have continued. We are currently working with Elsevier, another hugely supportive publisher who supply us with excellent medical text books, on some direct shipments – and these will be coming from the US! Elsevier UK has been donating books to us and funding projects for over 10 years. As if that wasn’t enough, they are now working with their US branch to arrange for us to also receive donations of books from them. This will more than quadruple the quantity of books we receive from the publisher. Given that up-to-date medical texts are scarce in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, this is a development that we and our partners are incredibly excited about. Look out for a full update on the work we’ve been doing with Elsevier, coming soon.
A big thank you to OUP, Elsevier and indeed all the publishers who so generously support our work.