Donors Deliver at BFA's Reading is Believing Spring Fundraising Luncheon

Ambassador Simbyakula with Shakira Bradshaw, representing event Sponsor MN Council for Minnesotans of African HeritageBooks For Africa’s annual fundraising luncheon was held Thursday, May 30th, 2019 in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  This year’s event, Reading is Believing, was highlighted by a keynote speech from His Excellency Dr. Ngosa Simbyakula, Ambassador of Zambia to the United States!

 The room was packed to capacity with over 300 BFA supporters and VIPs attending. Guests of honor included representatives from Presenting Sponsor Thomson Reuters, MN Attorney General Keith Ellison, former MN Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Jackson George, Liberia’s Consul General in MN, as well as state and local government officials, judiciary members, and members of the local business community.

The luncheon was a remarkable success, raising over $124,000 in sponsorships, donations, and pledges.  Proceeds from the event will sponsor the shipment of tens of thousands of books to Africa, including 22,000 books to Zambia in honor of Ambassador Simbyakula, delivered in a container funded by Premier Sponsor Thomson Reuters.

Ambassador Simbyakula stressed the importance of giving Africa’s next generation access to education, noting that “The 44 million books and counting that Books For Africa has shipped to Africa [over] the last 31 years have touched and changed the lives of millions on the continent. Most of Africa are still youth, so through your kindness you are helping to educate Africa’s future and create a well-informed electorate, [which is] vital to a thriving democracy.” The ambassador also emphasized the impact of BFA’s Jack Mason Law & Democracy Initiative, discussing how these important legal resources are in “help[ing] to strengthen democracy and the rule of law on the continent.

See all the great photos from the luncheon!

2019 Reading is Believing Luncheon & Kilimanjaro Society Breakfast. Photo Credit: Kyra Nygard

The crowd also heard from Ava Ramberg, Executive Director and co-founder of Barwaaqo University, a school for girls and women in Somalia. Ava, a native Minnesotan and graduate of the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Business, discussed the origins, challenges and successes of the University, and spoke about the positive impact that two shipments of BFA books have had on the organization. Barwaaqo University's mission focuses on empowering Somali women to become leaders and drive development in their communities, and the school features a teacher's training program to promote a culture of literacy among Somali girls and women. Barwaawo was also one of the first recipients of BFA's new Girls Empowerment Collection!

We were also proud to announce this year’s BFA award winners at an exclusive Kilimanjaro Society breakfast preceding the luncheon.  Ambassador Simbyakula presented the Volunteer Award to Marly Espinosa Ortega, Max Sammon, Lorraine Tetreault, and Omar Velazquez Chavez, students from the Metro Deaf School, who so an amazing job volunteering every week at our Saint Paul, MN warehouse. This year’s Kilimanjaro award went to local businessman and BFA Container Captain Abdirahman Kahin, who has organized container shipments of French books to his native Djibouti, and has secured funding for container shipments to Somalia in partnership with the Amoud Foundation. A huge thank you to all of our award winners for their outstanding support!

Volunteer award winners (from left) Lorraine Tetreault, Omar Velazquez Chavez, Marly Espinosa Ortega, and Max Sammon with Executive Director Patrick Plonski, Founder Tom Warth, Ambassador Simbyakula, and Board President Jote Taddese.

The events were well covered by local media, including Mshale mewspaper, KSTP TV news, and WCCO Radio.  Ambassador Simbyakula and BFA Executive Director Patrick Plonski also teamed up to pen an article for the Star Tribune promoting business relationships between Zambia and Minnesota, including promising opportunities in in energy, agriculture, construction and tourism.

Our thanks to the sponsors, donors, and supporters who came together to make this such a memorable and successful event – your support allows us to continue putting books in the hands of African students who need them!