BFA Executive Director Visits Recipients, Makes Connections on Africa Trip

Following our 30th anniversary fundraising tour in Cape Town, South Africa, BFA Founder Tom Warth and Executive Director Patrick Plonski embarked on a series of site visits to check in with recipients and learn about successes and challenges of their book projects.  This first-hand feedback is invaluable in assessing and improving our programs, and allows us to better serve our partner organizations in the future.  In addition to visiting past recipients, Tom and Patrick continue to make valuable connections with potential future partners and influential leaders.


From Cape Town, their journey continued north to Zimbabwe, where they met with recipient schools around the country.  The trip included a meeting with the Rotary Club of Harare West and the Zambezi Schoolbook Project, who have partnered with BFA on 15 successful container projects.  Patrick reports that “this rotary club has distributed 720,000 books in 15 ocean-going sea containers across Zimbabwe over four years working with Books For Africa, the Zambezi Schoolbook Project, Children in the Wilderness, The African Wildlife Conservation Fund, and many other partners.  This is one of the best projects I have worked with in my years at Books For Africa — truly a best practices model." 

Meeting with the Rotary Club of Harare West

Other highlights from the Zimbabwe trip included a visit to the Children in the Wilderness Project, where Plonski and Warth were able to see the project in action, guided by Project Coordinator Sue Goatley, and a site visit to Fairchance Learning Academy.

Sue Goatley, Project Coordinator for the Children in the Wilderness Project, on a tour of the facility


From Zimbabwe Patrick headed east to the coastal country of Mozambique as part of an extended on-the-ground development initiative.  Mozambique’s Ambassador to the U.S., H.E. Carlos Dos Santos, was the keynote speaker last May at our annual fundraising luncheon, and helped facilitate some fantastic discussions as part of this trip. 

At the Ministry of Gender and Social Action Headquarters

The main topic of discussion in Mozambique was a project to ship 300,000 custom printed Portuguese language books (a first for BFA) to Mozambique in partnership with FHI 360 and COVida.  Other meetings of note in Mozambique included discussions with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, as well as the U.S. Ambassador to Mozambique.  BFA looks forward to further strengthening these important relationships as this exciting new project progresses!


The trip continued north from Mozambique to Tanzania, where BFA has a long history and lots of friends.  Since 1988 BFA has delivered over 2.5 million books to Tanzania, making it the fourth largest recipient country in BFA’s history.  The visit kicked off with a visit to the U.S. Embassy to discuss strategies to facilitate even more book shipments.  Plonski also met with Dr. Leonard Akwilapo, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and Dr. Ali Mcharazo, Director General of the Tanzania Library Services Board to strategize and discuss potential partnerships. 

At the Centre for Foreign Relations in Dar es Salaam

The Tanzania trip also included a visit to the Centre for Foreign Relations in Dar es Salaam, formerly the Institute of Higher Learning for the African Freedom Fighters, which trained leaders fighting for national independence in Africa in the 1970’s.  The Centre recently received a BFA shipment of 22,000 books, including a Thomson Reuters Law & Human Rights Library, coordinated by former Tanzanian Ambassador to the U.S. Ombeni Sefue.


The next stop was Kenya, where meetings included interactions with the U.S. Embassy and the United Nations regional office in Nairobi.  Next was a stop at Pwani University in Mombasa, who have received BFA shipments with assistance from BFA sponsors Better World Books, Merck and Company, and the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation.  

This visit included discussions on establishing a book trust, which would allow for ongoing shipments of containers of books to be distributed to libraries and schools across the county.  Additional site visits to past BFA recipients Rosslyn Academy, Kenyatta University, and Karatina University rounded out a very productive Kenya stop.  

Patrick is currently in Ethiopia, with visits to Seychelles, Dubai, and the World Literacy Summit in Oxford, England still on the agenda.  Check back for updates, or visit our Facebook page to see the latest and greatest from our Executive Director’s 3 month journey!