Shannon O'Rourke Kasali

Shannon traveled a long way from her origins in Michigan to the eight years she lived and worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo! While in the DRC, she noticed a serious shortage of books, and that's where her work with BFA began. Collaborating closely with partners both in Africa and in the U.S., she successfully fundraised for a first and later a second container shipment. Shannon's work continues today, not just with additional container projects, but also as she lives between the U.S. and the DRC and works on her Masters in Library and Information Science.

Shannon’s Background

Shannon at the PYE Library, built with a container shipment from BFA

Shannon grew up in Michigan, and has a background in international development, specifically education and gender. Her path first crossed with BFA’s while she was interning with a local organization in Senegal in 2009. From Senegal, Shannon went on to live in Mali, Zambia, and then the Democratic Republic of Congo. Shannon spent eight years living and working in the DRC, where she realized that books were a rare commodity in Goma, where she was living. Her colleagues would frequently ask to borrow books to read, and someone even told her it was easier to buy a helicopter than a book in Goma. Universities had a limited number of books for their students. Public schools also had limited books, and many children were missing out on the opportunity to increase their knowledge and explore their world through reading.

Shannon decided to contact BFA to see if it would be possible to get a container of French-language books (it was!), and see if it would be a good fit for what was needed. She also worked with local partners to learn more about specific needs for books, and then reached out to friends of hers who had done successful online fundraising campaigns in the past. She then crafted her fundraising strategy and launched her campaign!


Fundraising is all about personal relationships, in Shannon’s view. She observed that most of the people who donate to online campaigns are those who already know the fundraiser. Shannon was fundraising while on another continent than most of her donors, so she spent a lot of time communicating with potential donors. She found it to be a wonderful way to get in touch with friends and family, and to let them know what she was working on. She also worked with local partners to craft content to post on social media to increase interest, and set a deadline for the campaign (one month to raise $27,000!). Shannon described fundraising as “challenging, stressful, but… also a lot of fun.”

Results and Ongoing Work

Pictures are worth a thousand words, and we are fortunate to have a photo album (below) of the results of Shannon’s work as a container captain! The first container created multiple libraries, and to date, Shannon has worked to bring two containers that created 16 libraries in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with another container expected to be on its way later this year!

The DRC is now Shannon’s second home, and she lives and works between there and the U.S. She is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois. This degree will further strengthen and improve the work she is doing in the DRC.

Humanitarian emergencies are still happening in Goma, with armed conflicts that come and go, but Congolese people value education, and many see it as their only opportunity out of the cyclical violence and troubled economy. Shannon’s work in partnership with local organizations and schools supports them in building a better future for their country.

Shannon has established a local organization in the Democratic Republic of Congo called Books for Congo where they are continuing this exciting work!

Shannon is happy to be contacted at:

Shannon O'Rourke/DRC