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April 29, 2009 > Libraries in Africa

Libraries in Africa

By Meenu Gupta

There are millions of children in Africa right now who are still struggling with the challenges of not having enough books, resources to realize their dreams. You can work with African Library Project (ALP) to bring libraries to those who do not have them.

The African Library Project is an all volunteer grassroots organization that coordinates book drives throughout the US to help start libraries in Africa. Milpitas High School"s Book Club has set an example by collecting books for Hillside High School in Manzini, Swaziland.

Hillside High School has 856 students and 37 teachers. "Milpitas High School is the only school in Milpitas that has organized a book drive to date with us," said Chris Bradshaw, Founder/President, African Library Project. "This semester we will start 130+ libraries in Africa through efforts like Milpitas High Schools."

Milpitas residents may extend their support by donating books, money or organizing a book drive to start a library. "Though books are our main focus, people can also show their support by giving monetary donations," said Lena Lam, book club co-president. Checks should be made to "African Library Project." The donations help in the shipping of books.

The "Book Club has been pleasantly surprised, and continues to be, by the response we have received from Milpitas High students and staff, as well as local residents who have seen our notices in newspapers," Lam said.

The Milpitas High School Leo Club started two libraries through the African Library Project last semester. "Milpitas High's Leo Club donated for Swaziland in the fall," said Lam.

African Library Project sends new libraries to Swaziland. Dedicated volunteers of the project are from California, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Washington, North Carolina and Florida. This spring new libraries are opening across Swaziland as the non-profit organization is putting books in the hands of young readers across the nation.

Swaziland, a tiny country surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique, has 15 public libraries, but many of the nation's 1.1 million residents live too far away to borrow books. According to the organization, around 20,000 books were collected by volunteers throughout the USA and traveled to Swaziland in a shipping container on February 18.

The California books will establish 18 libraries in schools across Swaziland. ALP volunteers collect books for shipment to Swaziland. The books are then packed in cardboard boxes and carefully labeled by volunteers, who also raise the money to pay for shipping the books to Africa.

It costs about $500 to send 1,000 books to Africa using ALP's container system. ALP hopes to collect 35 libraries, filling another 20-foot shipping container that will be sent in early July to Swaziland. Librarians hope to have ten of the libraries running by the end of May and all 18 libraries in operation by the end of August, according to AFP.

"Book drives are the blood of the African Library Project. The 283 libraries we have established in Africa each began with US volunteers organizing their community to recycle their books. These acts of compassionate action are opening up new worlds of possibilities for Africans. I am inspired daily by their generosity of spirit and willingness to ground their beliefs in action," said Bradshaw.

The African Library Project has established 283 libraries in Africa since 2005.
The libraries, collected primarily by US residents, are operating in eight countries: Nigeria, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Swaziland, and Lesotho. Volunteers in fifteen states are collecting books now for libraries bound for Swaziland and Malawi. Swaziland is a new partner for us and they are just now setting up our first libraries," said Bradshaw.

"The book drive is going so well, Lam has decided Milpitas High School Book Club will start their own library. They were going to piggyback with another school which also feared not getting enough books, but both book drives are encouraged by their early success, so now there will be two libraries where there was one," said Bradshaw.

"We will be matching Milpitas High School with Mpuluzi High School in Mpuluzi, Swaziland. They will need to concentrate on collecting another 500, 4th-8th grade books and raising shipping money ($500)."

Anyone interested in donating email
Those interested in organizing a book drive should contact Chris Bradshaw at or visit

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