Charity Corner: Book Aid International
Welcome back to Charity Corner. This is my new series where I will be using my blog as a platform to lend a voice to different charities and organisations of all sizes, backgrounds and causes. Today’s Charity Corner, I speak to Jenny Hayes, the Communications Executive at Book Aid International, a charity which provides books to underprivileged places in the world.
What is the mission of Book Aid International?
Book Aid International is the UK’s leading international book provision and library development charity. We believe that books and reading give people the opportunity to change their lives for the better. Our mission is therefore to get brand new books to the places around the world where books are scarce but where, if people had access to books, they could make a huge difference. To do this, we work in partnership with libraries, providing brand new books, resources and training to support environments in which reading for pleasure, study and lifelong learning can flourish.
What’s the story behind the creation of your charity?
Book Aid International was founded in 1954 by Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly. Two years prior to that, Lady Ranfurly had moved with her husband to the Bahamas where he was Governor General. As she toured the islands, she was shocked at the lack of reading materials. She set about collecting books which she packed up and sent to schools, libraries and institutions on the islands. Thus the Ranfurly Library Service was born. On her return to the UK in 1956 Lady Ranfurly decided to expand her ‘book scheme’ to the British Commonwealth. The Ranfurly Library Service took up residence in London and sent books to countries all over the world. In 1994 the charity changed its name to Book Aid International.
What outcomes has Book Aid seen through its work?
The charity has been going for over sixty years and in that time we have sent more than 33 million books to libraries around the world. There are more brilliant outcomes than we can count! The books we send are helping students at Mzuzu University in Malawi continue with their studies after their library was destroyed by a fire. In the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, they allow people forced from their homes to continue their education. Prisoners in Uganda use them to study for law degrees while they await trial. In Sierra Leone, the books are helping pupils who missed a whole year of school during the Ebola crisis get back to learning; and that’s just to name a few! Take a look at these individuals’ stories of the positive difference books have made in their lives on our website.
In what way do donations to your charity benefit you?
When it costs just £2 to send a book, donations achieve so much! We work with our partners to get books to the places and people where they can make the most difference, supporting libraries which might otherwise have empty shelves. This includes libraries in schools, hospitals, prisons, refugee camps, cities, slums and remote and rural communities. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, each year we send our library partners around one million brand new books to fill over 2,600 libraries and provide hundreds of thousands of readers with the resources they need to develop their skills, make the most of their educations and discover a passion for reading . We also work with our partners to develop programmes to help readers get the most out of the books we send. In 2016 we launched our Inspiring Readers programme to create libraries in schools where it is common for children to share one book between many. Through this programme, we aim to improve the reading opportunities of a quarter of a million primary school children in Africa. As part of this, teachers are trained in bringing books to life in the classroom and they are linked up with a local library to access bigger book collections and to visit with their classes for further reading activities. In 2016, the programme launched in Kenya and Uganda and this year it will expand into schools in Malawi and Uganda.
How can people help Book Aid International besides just giving money?
There are many, many ways people can support us besides donating money, from packing books in our warehouse to running marathons to baking! There really is something for everyone. If you are able to join us at our warehouse in Camberwell, London, we always welcome regular help with stamping and packing books ready to ship to our partners. In 2016, we sent our library partners 1,032,610 books and we couldn’t have done this without the dedication and hard work of our fantastic warehouse volunteers! Many of our supporters choose to fundraise for us in a variety of ways, from holding cake sales at work to running marathons. We also have a team of dedicated Community Ambassadors who raise awareness about our work in their communities by speaking about our work at schools and festivals and holding events to fundraise for us.
Book Aid International is one of World Book Day’s official partner charities and every year hundreds of school children fundraise for us by donating £1 to dress up as part of their schools’ celebrations. Last year, their efforts raised over £121,000 – that’s enough to send 60,500 books to our partners! People also hold cake sales, readathons and quizzes to support our work on World Book Day both in schools and workplaces. This year World Book Day will be on 2 nd March and taking part by dressing up or fundraising is easier than ever before. Visit our website to get started. We also welcome support on social media. Retweets and post-sharing are a great way our supporters can help spread the word about our work. We really couldn’t do the work we do without our supporters. You can find out more here.
Where can people find more information on your charity?
For further information about Book Aid International, from more details on where we work and what we do, to the stories of the people we support, visit our website.
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