As a staunch fan of libraries, and one who happened to be born in Africa (in Zambia), I was really interested when Africa Educational Trust approached me about their Books to Readers appeal, which is looking to raise £3000 to allow them to transport 10,000 books, donated by Book Aid, to 66 libraries, including Donkey Drawn Libraries, across Somalia.
I asked Africa Educational Trust if they would share with us a bit more about their work, and I’m delighted to have this guest post for you today:
“Many libraries and book collections in history have fallen victim to war and conflict and the libraries of Somalia are no different. When civil war broke out in 1992, Somalia lost both public and private book collection to looting and burning. Rebuilding these collections has been particularly hard for a region that continues to struggle with poverty, drought and violence.
Africa Educational Trust (AET) started working in Somalia in 1995. We aim to provide education to those who are most often excluded, to build the foundations necessary for learning, and to transform people’s lives through education.
In Somalia, we are known as the organisation that walked in when everyone else was running away. Over the years, our involvement in the school examination system and our radio-based literacy programmes have made us a local household name.
We can see how the lack of books hurts education and learning throughout this region. When AET thought about how to help the people of Somalia rebuild their education system, we knew we needed to help re-build school and community libraries. However, we also knew we had to be creative if we were going to get books out to the people most excluded from education.
To solve this problem, we decided to create mobile libraries. How do you put a mobile library together? It’s pretty simple actually.
1. Use a community or school library as your base.
2. Take a collection of books and load them into a secured, waterproof container.
3. Find a local motor-cycle, lorry, or a donkey cart, to transport books.
4. Visit a community on the same day every week or two.
5. Allow people to borrow books and return them the following visit.
Our mobile libraries in Somalia bring books to communities in refugee camps and regions where it is still too risky to set up permanent libraries. They help people in small, rural towns get a constant supple of new books. They also have helped to bring books to organisations for people with disabilities, who have a difficult time visiting a library. Some of the stories of our readers are on our website right now.
But the need is greater than we can currently meet. There is great demand for text books on science and maths and for early-readers especially. We are fundraising to bring more books to these libraries because more books means more people enjoying the chance to read.
Book Aid International provides us with top-quality donated books, but we need to pay the costs of getting them into the country. We also need to sort them so the books get fairly distributed and end up where they will do the most good. Some books are better for community libraries and some are better off in university libraries. It costs us £3000 to get 10,000 books into the country and out to the 66 libraries, and 200,000 people who regularly use our libraries we are helping.
It works out to about £3 to get a book from the shipping container into the hands of a reader. Whatever support you can offer, either by donating or helping share our message with other will be so greatly appreciated by us and by our readers in Somalia.”
I’ve donated (not much, but if we all donated enough to get a book out to communities, what a difference we could collectively make!) and I hope you’ll consider donating too: