Kenyan Ambassador Robinson Njeru Githae Headlines 2016 Books Change Lives Fundraising Luncheon

Last week, Books For Africa held its annual Books Change Lives fundraising luncheon in St. Paul, Minnesota. This year's keynote speaker was His Excellency Ambassador Robinson Njeru Githae, Kenyan Ambassador to the United States.

Ambassador Githae emphasized the importance of ending the African book famine, sharing his personal experience with the challenges and frustrations that a lack of textbooks can cause in school:  "When [I was] in school, I was sharing one textbook with 10 other students –you can imagine the logistics. One person wants to study chapter one, another chapter five, and another chapter ten! So, it was a nightmare.  When I meet people like you, with the vision to make a difference, truly I am grateful."

Ambassador Githae with former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and other representatives from Platinum Sponsor Thomson Reuters

His Excellency also addressed the role of education in ending the cycle of violence and poverty, and creating a brighter future for Africa: "Education is particularly important for our young people, who will be tomorrow’s leaders… access to quality education is the bulwark against young people turning to radicalization and violence. When a population is more educated, people have more opportunities for economic and social advancement. A better educated population leads to better governance and the development of the rule of law."

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The assembled crowd was also treated to a presentation by returned Peace Corps volunteer Anna Nathanson, who shared photos and stories from a library project she undertook using BFA books while in Tombel, Cameroon. Anna's striking pictures allowed donors see the smiles that their support puts on the faces of children who hold a book for the first time.

The fundraising efforts were a resounding success - together, our supporters contributed more than $115,000 in sponsorships, donations and five year pledges, which will sponsor the shipment of tens of thousands of books to African libraries and classrooms in need. This includes 22,000 books to Kenya in honor of Ambassador Githae, delivered in a container funded by Platinum Event Sponsor Thomson Reuters. It addition to Ambassador Githae and Thomson Reuters, we offer our sincere thanks to Silver Sponsors Atomic Data and Frank Babka, Bronze Sponsors Bremer Bank and Dr. Clark LaChapelle, and Event Sponsors Mshale, Lerner, The University Club, and Hotel 340! We would also like to recognize each and every attendee that helped to make this event such a great success.

The luncheon was preceded by a VIP breakfast at the University Club in Saint Paul, which included award presentations to BFA's outstanding supporters.  This year’s Kilimanjaro Society Award was presented to Frank Babka, a long-time supporter and Rotary member.  Frank has shown a strong commitment to sponsoring the shipment of books to African schools year after year, and generously offered matching funds for the first container fully funded at this year's luncheon!  Joanne Steffens and Grace Templin received Warehouse Volunteer Awards. We are thankful for the time and enthusiasm that they invest in sorting books in our St. Paul warehouse.

Following the luncheon a crowd headed to the Thompson Reuters campus in Eagan for a discussion on the importance of law and human rights libraries (donated to BFA by Thomson Reuters as part of the Law & Democracy Initiative), and to hear from the Ambassador about how these valuable resources are being utilized in Kenya.

Ambassador Githae and BFA Founder Tom Warth celebrate the grand opening of the new BFA administrative officesThe next day Ambassador Githae visited the new BFA administrative offices, unveiling a plaque as part of a dedication ceremony for our new space. Following the dedication, Ambassador Githae keynoted the "Business Trends in East Africa Forum," held in partnership with the Minnesota Trade Office, where a Q & A session with local business leaders followed the Ambassador's remarks. Our new neighbors and long time supporters at Afro Deli provided delicious African fare for this well attended event, where a good time was had by all! 

More from Ambassador Githae

Ambassador Githae took time from his busy schedule to sit down with Minnesota Public Radio to discuss the closing of Dadaab refugee camp, and speak about the important role of books and education in African development.  Listen here>>