Books change lives

In a former life I saw first hand the impact that education can have on helping people to lift themselves out of poverty. I saw how literally books change lives. I want to keep being a small part of that change.

My experience in Africa

Before I had children I was a water and sanitation engineer in Africa. It was my job to oversee construction of water points, toilets and effective local community management of these alongside a public health promotion programme. One of the first things we would do is carry out a village assessment. This involved, amongst other things, talking to as many villagers as we could get hold of and asking them what they needed.The villagers always knew that we did water and sanitation work yet the conversation often went something like this:

Me ‘What are your biggest problems in the village?’
Villagers ‘We get sick’
Me ‘What do you get sick with?’
Villagers ‘Diarrhoea, dysentry, fever….’
Me ‘What do you think is making you sick?’
Villagers ‘Our water is dirty’
Me ‘What do you think we could help you with then’
Villagers ‘Build us a hospital so we can get medicine when we’re sick’

Perhaps further down their priorities they might mention cleaning up the water supply, or helping them with some materials to build toilets.

I saw too often some misinformed ‘elder’ nearly derail a whole village project with his ‘knowledge’ of what we were apparently doing wrong. Uneducated, not stupid, villagers would follow an elder like sheep because surely everything he said was right. Their lack of education didn’t mean they were stupid, rather I felt it left them unable to problem solve. Unable to see the connections between A and B. Unable often to examine the situations and come to their own conclusions.

Books Change Lives with Book Aid International

Education wasn’t part of my remit in Africa, nor was it something I was experienced in. And despite my staunch belief that civil engineers have saved more lives than doctors through providing clean water and sanitation over the centuries, I recognised that it is education that empowers people to identify what steps they need to take to change their own lives.

When I had children I gave up my career but still wanted to make a difference in some small way in the sort of places I had worked. I started selling children’s books but wanted to link it with education in Africa. That’s when I came across a charity called Book Aid International. Originally set up to take unwanted books from Britain to Africa it has evolved quite significantly to setting up libraries and working in partnership with them in many countries in Africa. Second hand books are not sent now, with the exception of some nearly new medical texts, instead literary partners request what books they are short of and Book Aid sources them. Publishers donate books requested by Book Aid. Libraries now exist where they never have before, some in buildings, some by bicycle and some even by donkey.

All because Book Aid International know that Books Change Lives

How can you help?

Most of the money raised by Book Aid International goes to either transporting books from Britain, setting up libraries or in some cases getting local publishers to print books. It costs on average £2 to send a book. You can donate here.

Times Tables PosterBook Aid International is the official charity of World Book Day. Perhaps your children will be doing something to support them.

Until the end of March I will donate £2 for every Times Tables Poster that I sell, either directly or through my website. If I could send even just £20 to Book Aid International that could be 10 lives changed.

It’s not difficult to make a difference when you hit the right spot. Books change lives. You can be a part of that.

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