| By Jessica Edwards |
Although I spend most of my time working for the Gale International Marketing team, I’m also a Publisher Ambassador for the charity Book Aid International. After touring the Cengage warehouse last year and learning about operational processes, including the scrapping of books, I was inspired to research ways of extending the lives of books marked for pulping. I consequently came across Book Aid International, a long-established charity who ship new books from UK publishers out to sub-Saharan Africa, and was immediately impressed with the value and scale of their work.
The charity not only accepts book donations, but establishes librarian training programmes and funds refurbishments at partner libraries in sub-Saharan Africa and the occupied Palestinian territories. Some of these libraries are in communities with a very limited access to books such as refugee camps, prisons, and slums, others are in hospitals or universities where resources are extremely dated. Book Aid International works with some of the largest UK publishers, and all the books shipped abroad are new. In 2016, they sent over a million books. They also work with local publishers to source books in local languages.
It can be hard to appreciate quite how desperate the need is, but a few particularly powerful stories go some way towards demonstrating. The Menelik II Referral Hospital in Ethiopia is a hospital with no internet connection, and therefore no online resources. Thus, the library is vital for medical staff to access the up-to-date information they require. Nearly all the books in the hospital library are provided by Book Aid International. Samuel’s story in the video below is also a powerful indication of how the work of Book Aid International helps individuals pull themselves out of poverty. The video also outlines the charity’s many achievements over the last year.
Book Aid International embodies so many things I value and admire: education, giving people the tools to help themselves, and preventing waste. I decided to get involved, both through fundraising to help support the operating costs of the charity, as well as using my position within a publishing house to arrange book donations. From the outset, I could see that Book Aid International shares many of their activities, goals and overall mission with Gale and Cengage: working with library partners to best serve their patrons, improving education, and providing individuals with the resources to make this happen. Consequently, after bringing this alignment to light, Cengage has been enormously supportive of the charity and my efforts, for which I’m extremely grateful.
The first fundraising event I organised in the UK office was—that trusty favourite!—a cake sale. Cengage generously agreed to match the funds raised, which were consequently boosted from just over £200 to over £400. Additional fundraisers have included promoting tickets to centrally-run Book Aid International events such as ‘An Evening with Jonathan Dimbleby’ (a journalist and broadcaster well known in the UK) and setting up Christmas card stalls in each of the office kitchens to sell cards during the festive season. The generosity of friends and colleagues in the Cengage office, both with their time in baking a delicious array of sweet treats, and with their donations, indicates significant support amongst Cengage staff for the work of Book Aid International. This is perhaps born of a strong sense of the value of reading, information literacy and education shared by many of us who work for Gale and Cengage.
I also have to arrange book donations from the various Cengage business units. One of Book Aid International’s strengths is that they do not send libraries an indiscriminate selection of books—shipments are carefully tailored to the needs of library partners. Consequently, book donations must also be carefully selected to meet Book Aid International’s requirements. I have so far been able to arrange a shipment of several boxes of English language teaching materials from National Geographic Learning.
Most recently, I campaigned for Book Aid International to be made the chosen charity of Gale’s International Sales Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Gale generously donated $2000 to the charity. Not only is Book Aid International in sync with Gale’s everyday goals—their mission perfectly aligned with the conference theme of ‘empowerment’.
It costs around £2 to ship each new, recently published title from UK publishers out to partner libraries in sub-Saharan Africa, so Gale’s donation will allow around 775 books to reach readers in Africa who would not otherwise have access to such materials. This donation has consequently contributed to empowering many in sub-Saharan Africa who depend on Book Aid International for the opportunity to read, engage and learn.
As Book Aid International powerfully states –
Books change lives.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the charity and the great work they do, please visit www.bookaid.org. You can make a single or regular donation quickly and easily here, and there are also opportunities to become a Publisher Ambassador for Book Aid International. This role has been incredibly rewarding, and has also given me the chance to meet His Royal Highness, Prince Philip!