Organization plans to send a total of eight containers to establish libraries
On a rainy morning this winter, Libraries for Kids International Chairman Roy Austin and Vice Chairman Rick Harris visited Garden City Terminal to see the fulfillment of a dream that began three years ago on an African safari. The men bid farewell to a shipping container filled with more than 22,000 books as it left the docks at the Port of Savannah bound for east Africa.
The shipment is one of eight containers set to head overseas by the summer to establish libraries for 1,200 schools, impacting nearly 180,000 students. The idea came to Austin on that 2018 trip after speaking with a local teacher who told him the school didn’t have Internet and had no library.
“I sat with the students and saw how hungry they are to learn,” Austin said. “It’s common for 20 to 30 children to share a single textbook.”
Austin said teachers must improvise due to limited resources, often using pieces of cloth tacked to the wall to illustrate educational concepts. When he returned to the U.S., Austin focused on his new mission – acquiring enough donations to send a shipping container full of educational resources to rural schools in Africa. Austin’s desire to get books into the hands of more children like the ones he met on his trip led to the formation of the nonprofit organization set up to help fulfill Austin’s mission, Libraries for Kids International.
As the group began collecting donations, a local storage company offered to keep the books safe until shipment. Austin also partnered with Books for Africa, the largest shipper of donated text and library books to the African continent, for reduced shipping and customs charges.
So far, the organization has sent books to 11 schools. To organize the book distribution, the group hired an operations coordinator in Kenya and also maintains a book warehouse there.
Austin said now that all necessary books have been collected, any additional funds donated will be used for book distribution. Because of the terrain and road conditions, books are transported three boxes at a time by motorcycles. Each motorcycle delivery costs the group $35.
The work his group has done has put things into perspective for Austin.
“Don’t take for granted all the blessings that we have here in this country,” he said.
For more information, visit libraries4kids.org.