A donation of firsts

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.

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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).

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Boxes of OUP books being sorted in Cameroon

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.

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OUP books being sorted and split for distribution in Cameroon

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.”

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At the ceremony: children from one of the local schools chosen to receive books look at the exhibition of OUP books

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.

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The Hon MP for Yaounde VI viewing the display of OUP books

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.

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Going digital in Kenya

In April 2015, our Director Alison Hubert made a trip to Kenya to visit some of the libraries where we have been piloting tablets and e-readers and to attend an e-reading conference in Nairobi. Over to Alison to tell us more about her trip.

At Book Aid International we have a passion for reading and knowledge and for making the power of the written word, in all its forms, accessible to all. Since 2012 we have been exploring how tablets can be used alongside books in our Children’s Corners to engage young readers, give them the opportunity to learn digital skills (they don’t take long to master them!) and motivate them to visit their local library more often. For most of the children that visit the library this is their first experience of using a tablet and a real opportunity to start developing ICT skills for later life.

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Children’s librarian Moses gets everyone involved

Last month I went to Kisumu in Western Kenya to visit one of the libraries managed by the Kenya National Library Service and where, under a project funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, we have supplied 30 internet-enabled tablets pre-loaded with educational apps (including maths puzzles and language games) as well as fiction and content relevant to the Kenya National Curriculum. The head librarian, Doris and the children’s librarian, Moses, made me very welcome and explained how the tablets were being made available to children as part of a broader programme of library activities, including debating and traditional storytelling.

Here is a picture of George, a storyteller who came to the library during my visit, energetically telling a traditional story about a hare and a crocodile, which the children loved:

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George in action

The children clearly enjoyed using the tablets, sharing the educational games, watching videos together, listening to stories on their headphones or simply reading. Although some of them have access to their parents’ tablets at home, for many it was their first experience and it was instructive to see how they learned from each other and quickly got to grips with navigating the content.

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Children making use of the tablets

Some of the children in the library were also using e-readers supplied under a Gates Foundation-funded project in conjunction with Worldreader, an innovative organisation supplying pre-loaded e-readers to schools and libraries throughout Africa. Worldreader also held an e-reading conference during my visit which I attended, listening with interest to presentations from librarians and teachers running projects with children using the e-readers in the library and in the classroom. The Worldreader project offers a wide library of ebooks in English and in local languages, which are available on both e-reader and mobile, and these form a great complement to any printed book collection in a library or classroom.

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Children using Worldreader tablets

We are always on the lookout for new and innovative approaches to promoting reading and creating inspired readers of the future. We are very excited to be partnering with Worldreader in Uganda as part of a forthcoming project, Digital Futures. This project, joint funded by the Dulverton Trust and players of People’s Postcode Lottery, will take place in ten public libraries throughout the country. We’ll bring you full details of this project and an update on our other digital projects soon.

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April Book of the Month

2015 has been an excellent year so far for medical book donations. Not only have we received some great donations from our regular suppliers, with almost 2,000 coming from SAGE and over 2,000 from Elsevier (including a fantastic 204 copies of the classic Myles Textbook for Midwives, 2009 edition!), but we have also had some extra special donations.

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Myles Textbook for Midwives published and donated by Elsevier

Pharmaceutical Press have given us over 3,000 of their much-needed reference books and we also received over 1,000 textbooks from J P Medical. The international focus of the latter makes them particularly suitable for use in African countries.

For our April Book of the Month feature, we have chosen another specialised health book:

International Maternal & Child Health Care: A practical manual for hospitals worldwide. Produced (and donated) by Maternal & Child Health Advocacy International (MCAI).

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International Maternal & Child Health Care produced and donated by MCAI

The MCAI says “the internet is too slow and printing from computers is too expensive so books remain a valuable resource” and this reflects the experience of many of our partners in sub-Saharan Africa. MCAI has produced this textbook in response to the huge need for up to date, evidence based, accessible health information in the field:

Written and peer-reviewed by over 100 experts from around the world, all with experience in hospital settings where there are poor resources, it covers all aspects of hospital care for pregnant women and girls, newborn infants and children and addresses the full range of possible illnesses and injuries and includes complications of pregnancy and delivery.

At Book Aid International we are always in need of up to date medical textbooks, so it is a real scoop to receive 50 copies of a book so perfectly suited to the needs of our partner organisations. Copies have already been dispatched to hospitals and medical schools in Africa including the Gulu Regional Referral Hospital in Uganda, Kamuzu College of Nursing in Malawi and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Science in Tanzania. We are very grateful to MCAI for the generous donation of these textbooks.

A similar donation came our way at the start of 2015 in the form of 500 copies of Global Surgery and Anesthesia Manual: Providing Care in Resource-Limited Settings. These were printed for Book Aid International by CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, with funding received from the Abundance Foundation to cover their costs. These books are also ideal for our partners, and we would welcome any offers of funding towards further print runs such as these.

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Global Surgery and Anesthesia Manual donated by CRC PressTaylor & Francis with funding from the Abundance Foundation

A huge thank you to all of our donors of medical books, which will reach doctors, nurses, midwives and other health professionals and students in places where they are so desperately needed.

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World Book Night

Last night, our Communications Executive Jenny Hayes flew the Book Aid International banner as she volunteered for World Book Night, giving out copies of Lynda La Plante’s crime thriller Prime Suspect. Here’s how she got on:

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Books packed and ready to go!

I decided to give my 18 copies of Prime Suspect out on an estate in West London, an area where people might not have such frequent access to books. I was ably assisted by two friends, Will and Katie, who took photos and helped carry books. My plan was to simply knock on doors, but on the way I got quite nervous – what if no one opened their doors? Or what if nobody accepted a book? My fears were soon assuaged – as we entered the estate, we encountered a lady returning to her flat from the playground. I took courage, went up to her and offered her a book, telling her about World Book Night. And that’s when the magic of the evening began – she smiled, seemed genuinely surprised and pleased by the unexpected offer of a free book and accepted it with thanks.

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Katie proudly bearing a copy of Prime Suspect

We met all sorts of people and met with all sorts of reactions, some wonderfully encouraging, some slightly less so. We bumped into one gentleman as he was leaving his flat. He didn’t want the book, was sorry to be blunt but he only read about World War Two. Not a problem – it was good to know he knew what he liked! Another couple opened the door together, thanked me for the offer of the book but said that reading wasn’t really their thing. I couldn’t persuade them to give it a try, which was a shame. World Book Night’s aim is to encourage people to read for pleasure, but I guess you can’t win every one.

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Knocking on doors

But amidst the ‘no thank yous’ there were many more ‘yes pleases!’ People’s reactions to my offer of a free book, even once I had explained all about World Book Night, were very interesting. I could tell from their initial looks and questions like ‘what’s the catch?’ that there was a lot of mistrust but as soon as they understood that the book was completely free and I didn’t want anything in return, the smiles, the looks of surprise and genuine delight were wonderful. I hope many of them retained that sense of excitement and opened the book after I left . I hope that for some of them this will be the beginning of a new love affair with books. And I hope that because of the unusual way this book came to them that it’ll compel them to pick up another book once they’ve finished this one. And another. And another.

At Book Aid International, we believe that books have the power to change lives – that’s why we sent one million new books to sub-Saharan Africa in 2014. And that’s why I wanted to volunteer for World Book Night – to share that same power with people a little closer to home.

Posted in Blog, Literacy, World Book Night | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

All the fun of the fair

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Without the generosity of the publishing industry, Book Aid International’s work would not be possible – 94 per cent of the books we send to our partners in sub-Saharan Africa are donated by publishers. London Book Fair, an international trade fair for the book industry, is therefore a must on Book Aid International’s calendar each year. It’s a place where you’ll find a publisher for every type of book imaginable all under one roof – from children’s and adult fiction to academic, educational, law, business, science, technology and medical.

And so we were there last week, promoting the charity and meeting with publishers, both current and potential book donors, so that we can continue to broaden the categories of books and reading resources we supply to our partners in Africa.

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View of the ground floor of the Grand Hall at London Book Fair – there were other halls (and floors) filled with publisher stands too!

As well as meeting with publishers, we had a small stand at the fair adorned with photos of and leaflets about our work. We were delighted to have so many people visit us to find out more about what we do.

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Our stand, small but perfectly formed!

As Book Aid International was the London Book Fair’s Charity of the Year in 2014, we were invited to attend the opening ceremony. It included speakers representing the publishing industry of each continent and it was a wonderful encouragement to hear their passion for books. English food writer Mary Berry officially opened the fair as part of the ceremony.

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Mary Berry declaring London Book Fair 2015 ‘officially open’

We also held a drinks reception, hosted by our Chair, Lord Boateng, to celebrate the work in Africa which we’re able to do thanks to the generosity of the publishing industry.

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Our Chair, Lord Boateng, thanking our donors for their help with our work

We were thrilled to have the international bestselling author Ken Follett (pictured below) join us as well as Sabelo Mapasure (below) from one of our partners, the Zimbabwe Library Development Trust.

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Our Chair, Lord Boateng (left) with international bestselling author Ken Follett (centre) and Book Aid International Director Alison Hubert (right)

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Stevie Russell, our Collections Development Manager (left) with Sabelo Mapasure from the Zimbabwe Library Development Trust (right)

It was a joy and a privilege to be at the London Book Fair – to meet with publishers who are so enthusiastic about our work and see the thousands of new books that are soon to be published – so many new stories to read, skills to learn and insights to be shared. It’s a great reminder of why Book Aid International does what it does: so that libraries in sub-Saharan Africa can benefit from the amazing creativity, ideas, information and learning to be had from all the wonderful books the publishing industry produce.

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