UK-based Book Aid International Donated 1.2 Million Books in 2019

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The charity Book Aid International worked in 23 refugee camps, 38 prison libraries, 1,567 schools, 635 public and community libraries, 327 university libraries, and 417 medical libraries.

The first of Book Aid International’s ‘Voyager Container Library’ project facilities arrived in Kigali in spring 2019 with close to 5,000 books installed and money to train librarians and buy locally published titles. Image: Book Aid International

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

2019’s Report: Work in 26 Nations
Not surprisingly, Book Aid International‘s current effort is focused on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on school children in some of its most challenged markets. In many cases, the most important effort is to get books into homes at times when lockdown conditions prevent normal reading programs in schools.

The UK-based international charity, however, has a strong report for 2019, which was provided to members of the news media on Thursday (August 13).

Using its customary calculations, Book Aid estimates that its efforts last year reached in some way as many as 19.5 million people, sending 1.2 million books to readers in 26 countries. Publishers donate books for use particularly in cash-strapped educational settings, and it becomes Book Aid’s urgent mission, then, to get those books into some of the farthest flung areas of need in a timely and effective way.

Frequently assumed to be mostly focused on Africa, Book Aid actually operates in 15 African nations and almost as many countries elsewhere. In 2019, its efforts were underway, for example, in Bhutan, India, Nepal, Antigua and Barbuda.

Among the most creative efforts might have been one in which Book Aid utilized a 40-foot shipping container to create its “Voyager Container Library” program, working with Grace Rwanda to get into Kigali’s Gasave district with 4,500 books. An associated grant was leveraged to buy locally published books—such an important stimulus to needy markets’ own industries—and to train librarians who could then operate out of the “container library.” This was accomplished in partnership with the  Ineza Foundation and Gisozi Sector Gasobo District Council.

Operating without government grants or support, the program stands on a powerful base of donated funds, with special benefit from the UK’s People’s Postcode Lottery. That gambling infusion alone provided £500,000 (US$654,870).

In 2019, Book Aid’s total income was a handsome £20.8 million (US$27.2 million) of which £2.3 million (US$3 million) was cash income.

Those books provided free by the UK’s publishers were valued at a handsome £18.6 million (US$24.4 million).

Displaced Populations

And among its areas of work perhaps less often followed than classroom and library support in underserved cultures, Book Aid’s efforts among displaced and conflict-impacted people is a standout, along the lines of Sharjah’s Kalimat Foundation for Children’s Empowerment and its efforts to intercede on behalf of refugee readers in a dozen markets.

In 2019, the agency was in Greece, donating books to NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that work in education for that market’s refugee population. The agency was able to work with 17 organizations in the Greek mainland and on the island of Lesbos.

In East Africa, similar refugee-response efforts were made in settlement camps in Kakuma and Dadaab in Kenya and Adjumani and Bidi Bidi in Uganda.

Much more about the breadth of the program’s work can be read in this 2019 assessment (PDF) and on its annual review pages.

Here’s a video created by Book Aid International about its ‘Voyager Container Library’ in Rwanda.


More from Publishing Perspectives on Book Aid International is here, and more from us on Africa is here. More  from our Industry Notes series is here. And more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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