Books For Africa, Inc.

Rating: 4.7 stars   20 reviews

Issues: Children & Youth, Education, International

Location: 253 E 4th St. Suite 200 St. Paul MN 55101 USA

Mission: Books For Africa was founded in 1988 by Tom Warth, a Minnesota publisher whose dream was to ship donated books to the children of Africa. Warth's visit to a Ugandan library, where books were almost non-existent, inspired him to create a system for collecting discarded books from American schools, libraries and publishers to send to Africa. Books For Africa remains the largest shipper of donated text and library books to the African continent, shipping over 28 million books to 49 different countries since 1988. Over the past 12 months BFA has shipped 2.2 million books valued at $28.3 million to 22 African countries, with an additional 616 computers and 15 brand new law libraries.
Results: 2013 marks BFA's 25 Anniversary! We are celebrating the 28 million books shipped to 49 African countries thus far, and re-committing our efforts to send even more quality books in the years to come.
Target demographics: African schools and libraries that do not have sufficient books to support learning and recreational reading.
Direct beneficiaries per year: Each container shipped supplies enough books for ten school libraries. BFA ships about 2 containers every week!
Geographic areas served: all of Africa
2012 Top-Rated Nonprofit
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Community Reviews

Rating: 5 stars  

I'm a Peace Corps Volunteer coordinating several library projects in rural communities throughout South Africa - when looking for sources of donated books, word of mouth among other volunteers recommended BFA. Working with Books for Africa to distribute a shipment of 22,000 books to rural communities has been wonderful. I have been impressed by their professionalism and helpfulness throughout the process. They make the often-complex process of receiving books very clear for communities and folks in the field. The books donated to BFA are stocking libraries in impoverished areas where kids are really thirsty for reading materials - they're making an incredible difference.

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

A lot

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Likely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 5 stars  

I received books from Books for Africa while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa. The BFA staff was really great and helped us to organize the shipment of the books. We were then able to open thirty libraries throughout South Africa in schools that were invested in the project. BFA books are now read by 30,000 students in our schools each year. Without BFA, this project would not have been possible. Thank you for all of your great work!

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

Life-changing

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Definitely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 5 stars  

After my son died, I never thought that I would experience joy again. A former board member of Books for Africa, my friend Pam, told me stories of the amazing resilience and joy of the Rwandan people. I started reading books written by Rwandan genocide survivors and through their written stories, began to understand in a deeper way the human ability to survive, thrive and find joy again. I decided to work with Pam to send books to Rwanda. The country had just changed its official language from French to English, so the timing was perfect. I visited the library sites and fell in love with the people and the country, so we are using my son's college fund to send more books! I was particularly impressed with the way Books for Africa works with other groups to make a difference. Two of the libraries we sent were Law libraries. Only 49 lawyers were left alive in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide and there were few books. The Law and Democracy Initiative through BFA and Thompson Reuters provided complete, new, specifically designed law libraries to Rwanda Law Schools.

Was your donation impactful?

Definitely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Definitely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

Was this review helpful? 
Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 5 stars  

I was introduced to Books For Africa through my daughter and a friend who also mentioned her volunteer experience. When I arrived, the staff members gave a thorough orientation to us volunteers, and proceeded to be most helpful and engaging throughout my time there. Since all the materials are donated, they explained, there are certain types of books that need to be recycled into boxes. Not everything will be appropriate or relevant to send to Africa. Imagine rural African schoolchildren reading about The Civil War or The South Beach Diet; not helpful at all in their quest for education! It is the volunteers' and staff members' job to process through an enormous amount of books and recycle materials that don't translate well to African culture. Then the books are meticulously sorted into subjects so that they can be efficiently packed when an order comes on. As an educator, I found working at this charity to be enormously satisfying, spreading literacy as a bridge out of poverty. Most people in America have access to books, either through free public libraries, or through public schools. In Africa, as BFA's website demonstrates, these privileges are basically nonexistent. Spreading literacy is Books For Africa's mission and they perform their tasks with efficiency, cheerfulness, and optimism. I'm definitely going back to help out!

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

Books for Africa's mission is so simple--end the book famine in Africa. What the organization does is so straightforward--gather up gently used books, sort them by subject and grade level and ship them by container load to waiting hands in African countries. As a donor, I'm pleased that BFA has consistently high ratings for using funds very efficiently and keeps staff and overhead minimal. I've been to Tanzania with Books for Africa and seen the village schools with no electricity, no running water and one book shared by ten students. The children have so much less than even our poorest schools here, yet they seem hungry to learn. It's not so difficult to get books into their hands. Since the books are donated and volunteers sort and pack them, the main cost is shipping the container to an African port. It costs about $10,000 to send a container holding about 30,000. I like knowing that my monthly donations help make that possible. Imagine the impact of just one container on the life of a community and the future of those children!

Was your donation impactful?

Definitely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Definitely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 5 stars  

I am writing this letter in support of Books for Africa, a MN Based Charitable Education
organization, that I have come to know and support since 1999.
I have been and still is a strong supporter of Books for Africa because I relate to the circumstances
of the millions of children that Books for Africa is reaching out in Africa.
The day I discovered the existence of Books for Africa was one of my dreams come true. It is
not an exaggeration and here is why?
I was born in a rural village in a one room grass covered hut that we shared with the farm and
domestic animals at one corner, and an open fire place at the center of the room. A raised bunker
bed made of local materials is hanging little over the shoulders of the farm animals, and a
flickering lamp fueled by of animal fat or wax at one corner. That was the setting of the rural
house hold in Ethiopia in the village I was born. That setting is still true to over 50% Sub-
Saharan Africa and the continent in general in those countries lacking economic development.
I will be turning 50 years next week, and to date there is no electricity and running water
in the village I was born. It is very remote that modern amenities are years away. So how did
I get here from that environment against all odds?
The story is long but briefly…When I was two years old my maternal grandmother decided it
was time for her daughter to be in the city and without much publicity she scooped me and my
mom, and I ended up leaving in a larger town where schooling was available, and I went to a
Catholic pre-school followed by elementary and secondary public school education. From there
I maximized the opportunity to further my education and have had a successful career in Ethiopia.
I have a successful career here in the US as well, and currently I am pursuing a PhD on
Leadership and Organizational Change. All this has become possible because I was given an
opportunity to read and write. That is what Books for Africa is doing for millions of African
Children.
Over the years, I was part of Books for Africa witnessing its growth. For instance Ethiopia had
received only 12 containers of books in 1999. As of budget year 2011, Ethiopia received 175
sea containers of books and a total of 3.85 million books to date. Can you imagine how many
Asratie’ are born out of the opportunity to read and write that these books provided?
I am convinced that no international organization has done to educate the African children that
can compete with Books for Africa, and that is why I remain its permanent volunteer and supporter,
and gives it the highest praise and recognition. I hope you do too.
Sincerely,
Asratie Teferra
Chair, Ethiopian African 2000 Millennium Group
3924 Oliver St, Hyattsville, MD 20782
P.301-277-3950 C.630-802-5901
Www.ethiopiannewyear.com

Will you volunteer or donate to this organization beyond what is required of board members?

Definitely

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Life-changing

Will you tell others about this organization?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

Was this review helpful? 
Rating: 1 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

The absolute worse volunteer experience I have ever had. How about books for Atlanta? How about gay and lesbian exploration is OK but anything American related is sent to the recycle bin as Americans volunteer that time to support this non profit. Never again.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Volunteering.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Support local needs vs international needs.

Would you volunteer for this group again?

No

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

None

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Badly

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

What one change could this group make that would improve your volunteer experience?

Do not FORCE me to put anything american into the garbage.

Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)

Yes. I will never volunteer for this organization again,

How did this volunteer experience make you feel?

Bitter.

Was this review helpful? 

It is unfortunate that Mr. Thomas felt bitter after his experience sorting donated books for use in Africa. BFA requests books that fit into an African school curriculum, such as core subject areas and current reference books, as well as reading books that a person can choose to read in a school or community library. BFA volunteers sort the books for condition and culturally appropriate content before boxing for shipment. A book about American government, Thanksgiving, or North American geography is neither useful in an African classroomn nor culturally appropriate to an African student. Books not boxed for shipment are recycled. There are certainly avenues for donating books that will be useful in the United States. I recommend the ALA reference: http://www.ala.org/tools/libfactsheets/alalibraryfactsheet12. Please refer to the BFA website if you would like more information about the types of books collected and shipped to Africa. Sincerely, Carole Patrikakos, Manager of Corporate Relations & Grants, Books For Africa

Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

My name is Kekeli Christianson and I have been interning with Books For Africa. I love working with the staff members and being a part of this organization that provides books for children in Africa, is really inspiring and I am very grateful to have participated in such endeavor. Coming from Togo(West Africa) Myself I understand how hard it is for students to aquire texbooks. I remember I used to get copies of entire books from previous students and many times books are passed down from siblings. Having such an organization like Books For Africa providing the essential tools for education to african children is surely extraordinary. There are many ways to help Books For Africa in their endeavors. I myself have conducted a book drive and collected texbooks from college students and also volunteered at the Books For Africa warehouse sorting and packaging books for the next shipping. So ask yourself what can I do to help?

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

by being a part of the team and I learned a lot more than I anticipated.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Not sure.

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Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

In 2003 a Books for Africa staff person heard I was going to Africa to visit friends and asked me to look in on a few recipients to see how they were doing with their books. Perhaps it was a thinly-disguised attempt to get me hooked, but it captured my heart and mind. I met so many wonderful hardworking people and kids, from a refugee camp in Botswana, to the Rotary Club in Mzuzu Malawi, to a school building project in Eshowe, South Africa, all of them confident and passionate that education was the way to develop every person's complete potential. We're not giving people a handout, we're giving them tools to be better family members and community and world leaders. Books for Africa is a simple idea, efficient and effective, that changes the future for millions, yes millions, of people.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I've walked into empty libraries where there are a few old magazines and no books, and I've walked into the same libraries a year later where there are fifty kids reading and studying. I've been to law schools where forty graduate students share a single book, and I've been back to see them with a library of thousands of books. When I ask what Books for Africa could do better, the number one answer is "MORE BOOKS!"

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Books for Africa has challenges to confront: we don't have many agriculture books, thought agriculture is the number one subject in Africa. We lack books in native language. We need to navigate the transition from print to electronic media that is happening in the US already. We need to work to a sustainable model where books are locally written, edited, printed, and distributed without us.

Will you volunteer or donate to this organization beyond what is required of board members?

Definitely

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Life-changing

Will you tell others about this organization?

Definitely

How did you learn about this organization?

a friend of a friend

What is its top priority in the long run?

to end the book famine in Africa

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

Was this review helpful? 
Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

After having gathered, sorted, and shipped books to Zambia myself, I found BFA in 2009. After going to Minnesota and meeting the fine people that run BFA, my wife and I have been som impressed that we've become members of BFA's "Summit Society" and make substantial donations yearly. I have personally placed BFA's books and computers in schools in Zambia, and have taken brand new law books donated by BFA to the Zambia Law Association. Great organization and the people can't be beat.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Zambia and the US.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

just encourage more people to support it.

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