Donated French-language books from local sources headed for West Africa

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For Northfield’s Charlie Cogan and Cerif Keita, donating French-language books to students in West Africa is all about building amities — friendships.

Cogan, a French teacher at the International School of Minnesota in Eden Prairie, and Keita, a professor of French at Carleton College from French-speaking Mali, have been active volunteers with Books For Africa (BFA) for a number of years.

Cogan, a BFA board member, said Thursday he had boxes of donated books in his car for delivery to a specified warehouse in St. Paul. He said the next container heading to Africa would depart Minnesota in about two weeks.

“There’s still time for folks to donate any French-language books for this shipment,” he said.

Books For Africa is shipping over a million books a year, and it responds to requests from people who would like books for a particular region, Cogan explained. About 13 years ago, Cherif worked on a BFA project for the townships of Durban in South Africa that followed on the heels of his documentary on the “Life and Times of John L. Dube: From Oberlin to Inanda.” John L. Dube was sponsored to study at Oberlin College by two missionaries who were married in Northfield.

BFA hopes to collect 6,000 books by the end of February and ship them to Mali students. Like many African countries, more than 60% of Mali’s 2.1 million people are under 25 years old.