Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Worldly Wednesday: Building Libraries in The Gambia

Imagine growing up with very few books.  Maybe going through your teenage years never reading a novel.  Not because you didn't want to, but because there was no library or bookstore near you. 

For years, that's been a reality for women and students living around Njau, Gambia.

(If you're not familiar with Njau, Gambia - and my extra special connection to many villages in Africa's smallest country - click here.)

Building a library there has been a dream of many Gambian women I work with, and it's also been dream of mine for years.  And in February of 2012, it's likely to become a reality.  You can't imagine how I feel.

I'm partnering with A Hand in Health, a Minneapolis-based organization, to assist them in the building of not just one, but seven, libraries in and around Njau.  Three libraries will be in elementary schools, and two in middle/high schools.  The final library will be at a women's resource center.

This post is both a celebration and a call for book donations.  Currently, A Hand in Health along with Books for Africa has secured more than 20,000 children's books and several health and women's empowerment titles to send to the villages around Njau, Gambia.  Megan Meyer, from Hand in Health, and Isatou Ceesay, Gambian project manager, hope we can more than double that before the container ships later this year.  If all goes well, I'll be in The Gambia when the container arrives, ready to assist, inventory, shelf and tag these books!  (If you're interested in traveling to Gambia with me in February to build libraries - email me).

Got a great children's book to donate to kids or women in Gambia, Africa?

Here's some info:

You can also view this information at A Hand in Health's "Donate" tab - click here.

Drop Off or Mail-to Location:
Books For Africa Warehouse-St. Paul 

715 Minnehaha Avenue East 

St. Paul, MN 55106

The warehouse is located in the old Stroh’s Brewery complex that is just north of I-94,
just east of downtown St. Paul.  MAKE SURE ALL BOOKS ARE LABELED "HAND IN HEALTH" so they get on the right container.

Warehouse Hours:
•Wednesdays 9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. at the St. Paul warehouse
•Mondays-Thursdays 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. at the Atlanta warehouse
•The first and third Saturdays of every month from 9:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Book Donation Requirements:
If you mail books, please do not send boxes that weigh more than 50 pounds and do not include any packing materials such as newspaper, plastic wrap and peanuts.

*** Please print out a sign saying “Hand in Health” and tape to all boxes of books dropped off at or mailed to the warehouse.

***Please e-mail the project director at with the number of books donated so we can keep a running tally!

***Acceptable books are new or gently used and relevant to an African reader.  Including:

Quality children’s picture books and easy-readers (in good condition)
15 years old or newer popular fiction and nonfiction reading books (soft/hard cover).
1995 or newer publish date elementary, secondary, and college textbooks (soft/hard cover).
1995 or newer reference books such as encyclopedias and dictionaries.
School/office supplies—paper, pencils, pens, wall charts, maps, etc.

Please do NOT send:
•Magazines or journals of any kind.
•Home decorating, wedding, or cookbooks.
•Ethnocentric books, such as the biography of Abraham Lincoln or the history of Ohio.
•Foreign language books except for French books. French novels/dictionaries are welcome.
•American history or civics.
•Music books for K–12.

ALL AUTHORS, SCHOOLS, LIBRARIES, ETC. WHO LET ME KNOW YOU'VE DONATED BOOKS WILL GET A PUBLIC "SHOUT-OUT" ON MY BLOG!! (so don't forget to contact me if you donate books - especially signed copies!)


Unknown said...

This sounds like a really worthy project, Miranda. Thanks for pointing it out.

Kelly Hashway said...

What a great cause! I wonder if they'd like Dash. I may have to talk to my publisher about this.

Miranda Paul said...

Thanks, Kelly and Ellen for the comments.

Kelly - if you or your publisher decide to donate books, I'll do my best to track which library/school they go to. I'll also give you a personal shout out on the website - and post a photo of you signing or boxing one up if you send it. Thanks for the consideration!

It is also my understanding that Hand in Health or Books for Africa can furnish a receipt for tax purposes if needed.

Anonymous said...

I was in Gambia last summer with my two daughters volunteering for an organization called Starfish International. We worked to set up a small existing library in the Lamin village. Over 10,000 books were donated by people, schools and libraries in Central New York. The library now has internet axcess and a bathroom. Visit the library on Starfish International's facebook page. You should join forces.

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