BFA Board Members Put Boots on the Ground in Uganda, Swaziland

In January 2018, a group of 23 Books For Africa supporters visited Cape Town, South Africa, with the purpose of raising funds in celebration of Books For Africa’s 30th Anniversary.  Following a series of site visits across South Africa, BFA representatives struck out to learn more from recipients about the challenges and success points of their projects.

Executive Director Patrick Plonski joined founder Tom Warth in Zimbabwe before embarking on a 3 month tour of site visits and relationship building with current and future partners.  Board Members Dave Schafer and Paul Musherure joined Atlanta Warehouse team members Brad Mattson and James Hall for a trip to Uganda, while Board Member Catherine Ryan headed to Swaziland to check in with a group of Peace Corps Volunteers who recently helped distribute a BFA shipment.

Uganda

A display promoting children's books at the Jinja Municipal LibraryThirty years ago Tom Warth visited the Jinja Municipal Library and saw mostly empty library shelves.  This sad sight inspired Tom to create Books for Africa.  

In January 2018, Books for Africa Treasurer Dave Schafer visited that same Jinja library and witnessed the library’s transformation.  Dave saw both children and adults actively reading and checking out books.  The shelves are now well stocked with a large variety of books for all ages and abilities.

Books for Africa and Rotary clubs have partnered to supply over 80,000 books to this library and local Jinja schools.  Librarians and schoolmasters shared with Dave the powerful impact of these books.  They also stated the need for more books and computers for their community. 

Seth Eggessa Memorial Library

On January 28th, the Kidera community dedicated their new primary school library to the memory of Seth Eggessa.  Seth was a Books for Africa board member and Roseville Rotarian until his death last year.   He led efforts to build the library in his home village.  The new library is well stocked with books and 4 computers that will make a difference in student’s education.  Four Books for Africa representatives participated in the community library dedication and presented a memorial plaque honoring Seth - Representing BFA at the dedication were James Hall (BFA Atlanta warehouse manager), Dave Schafer (BFA treasurer and Woodbury Rotarian), guests Peace and Dave Mabonga (Mbale YMCA), Paul Musherure (BFA board members) and Brad Mattson (BFA director of Atlanta operations).

 Seth’s giving spirit and love of reading lives on in this primary school library and within the students that use the books.

Swaziland

Books For Africa Board Member Catherine Ryan recently returned from Swaziland where she joined teachers and Peace Corps volunteers as they unpacked boxes of books at Vusweni Primary School’s newly constructed library. “The actual arrival of the books, to hold them in our hands makes everything real,” said Peace Corps volunteer Clarin McDerrah. “This is what we’ve all been waiting for,” added Nick McDerrah, Clarin’s husband and also a Peace Corps volunteer, “To fill the shelves.”

Teachers Mr. Mabalesa and Mr. Msibi said that the school has long dreamed of having a library. “Now, after so much planning and hoping, we finally have one,” Mabalesa said. The group has spent more than a year and a half building the structure, determining what type of books were best suited for their students and securing in-country transportation. “This is the reward for all our work,” added Msibi, holding up a science book.

Like many schools in rural communities all over Africa, Vusweni Primary School didn’t have the means to build a library, much less purchase books. But the collaboration of several partners—community leadership, school officials, Peace Corps volunteers and others—toppled the hurdles.

“It’s been really wonderful to help this community make their dream a reality,” McDerrah said. “And we couldn’t have done it without Books For Africa.”