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  

Books For Africa is a brilliantly run organization. They have a clear mission: build literacy in Africa by shipping books to them. A solvable problem, a simple solution, and they do it well. Because they have been perfecting their practice, they now ship huge numbers of books amid the corruption and other obstacles similar organizations face. They are experts in their field, and because of that they are constantly increasing the number of books they are shipping while also expanding into new areas such as sending computers, working here within the local community, or gaining important feedback about how the books are being used. All of this growth while maintaining a miniscule staff of passionate, dedicated humans. My personal opinion is that this is just the start for BFA, and that they will continue to grow and expand their benefits for many years to come. The staff is incredibly uplifting and passionate, I absolutely adore being a part of the work they are doing.

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  

Books for Africa has allowed very scattered individuals and groups in the U.S. to send back more than 80,000 books to rebuild destroyed libraries in Sierra Leone. We are scheduled to send more than 100,000 books back in 2013 as well. This has helped to create literacy and scholarship in a country ravaged by civil war. It is a truly outstanding organization making a real difference in the world.

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?

A lot

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

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

Was this review helpful? 
Review from CharityNavigator
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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