Dick Simpson

Dick first went to Africa as a college student to help build a YMCA in Sinoe, Liberia, in 1961. As part of his PhD in African Politics, he spent a year in Sierra Leone in 1966 studying two upcountry towns. It wasn't until the summer of 2008 that he returned, a trip which resulted in creating a conference and a book - African Democracy and Development

He first became aware of BFA when Schools for Salone, an organization of returned Peace Corps Volunteers, was organizing the first container shipment to Sierra Leone in 2010. Shortly thereafter, he started working to get publishers to donate their books to Africa, in a desire to help out.

In working on that first container shipment with Schools for Salone, Dick connected with Sallieu Turay of the Sierra Leone Book Trust, who helped distribute books within the country. He also took over as container captain from Schools for Salone.

According to Dick, individual contributions proved the most effective way of fundraising. Sierra Leonean expatriates living in the U.S. and African scholars worked to collect books. Funds were raised at universities and occasionally from local foundations and churches. When asked what the simply answer is for fundraising, Dick says, "You simply have to ask." His strategy is to keep on collecting books and then seek the donations needed to ship them. He also mentioned that he appreciates BFA's work securing foundation funding that supplemented his efforts.

Dick's tireless work has helped to send over 462,000 books and other educational materials, including radios, to Sierra Leone, despite the challenges of raising funding for distribution in country and working through the Ebola epidemic. He has helped supply books to dozens of schools, rebuild at least one university library, and provide critical medical books to train new doctors and nurses.

Although Dick is retiring in 2020, he is currently still working collecting books for the next shipment  (which will include books from the estates of several academics, as well as a Pulizer Prize winning author) and waiting to find another container captain to take over for him. He hopes to provide an opening to knowledge for the future leaders of the country.

Sallieu Turay of the Sierra Leone Book Trust extended his thanks and appreciation for Dick's work, saying "he played a leading and pivotal role in coordinating and sourcing funds from friends of Salone, donors and partners of Books For Africa so that needed books can be sent to SALBOT for distribution to educational institutions in Sierra Leone. His relentless efforts, hard work, dedication and undying resolve in sourcing, raising and scouting for funds [made sure that] the reading public in Sierra Leone benefits greatly from 462,000 books and other learning materials."

Have any other questions for Dick? Contact him at simpson@uic.edu

Read Sallieu Turay's full farewell message to Professor Dick Simpson here