Hundreds of young people who live in the villages we are serving have limited (and sometimes zero) access to books of any kind. Until recently, most have never even seen a book, much less held one in their hands. Thus was born the Book Brigade idea.
The Book Brigade provides educational and inspirational reading materials to the Amana Kids, Airer Kids, Korome Kids, and beyond. The program runs totally on people power… and is almost zero cost. The idea is simple: Invite those who are traveling to Ethiopia (tourists, the Diaspora, and returning Ethiopian citizens) to hand-carry a book or two in their luggage and leave their gift at a convenient location upon arrival at Addis Ababa International Airport. Local volunteers will do the rest… screening the books per the selection guidelines below and ensuring that they get to the kids who will cherish them.
Two features of the Book Brigade are worth highlighting:
- The program legally and ethically circumvents all obstacles to shipping materials to Ethiopia from overseas (prohibitive shipping cost, labor-intensiveness, slow/unreliable delivery, and customs hassles).
- The program enables caring people to get involved in a hands-on and very personal way.
Note: While the focus is on collecting books, cash donations are always welcome… and will be used to defer local shipping costs or to buy books locally.
How the Program Works / What You Can Do
Step 1. Collect or buy a book or two (per the following selection guidelines):
- Emphasis on educational books for students age kindergarten through 12th grade.
- Nature, science, geography, travel, the arts, and stories about character, life lessons, and peace making are welcome.
- Content should be neutral regarding culture, nationality, ethnicity, creed, and gender.
- English language preferred (as this is the common language of higher education in Ethiopia), but Amharic, Oromifa, and Harari are welcome.
- Books should be in new or gently used condition.
Step 2. Pack the book(s) in your luggage and leave your gift at the Jupiter International Hotel Kiosk in the arrivals hall (after you clear immigration and customs) at Addis Ababa International Airport.
- One of the friendly Jupiter staff (see photo gallery) will be happy to meet you and accept your generous donation.
- Note: Bringing simple gifts in small quantities entails absolutely no issues regarding customs.
The project is open to expanding in some very creative “small is beautiful” ways:
- Contact Ethiopian Airlines to see if they are willing and able to collect, package, and ship books from the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe and the Middle East.
- Talk to those working with the kids (teachers, caretakers, elders) to see if eReaders (Kindle, for example) are a viable option. Although they need to be charged and new ones cost money, one eReader can hold thousands of books, books that may be installed for less money than it costs to ship a paper book, and no physical library is required. Is this too expense or high tech to be practical? Explore the interest in and practicalities of creating physical libraries in the communities we are serving.
- Explore additional options for getting books to the kids. One idea is to create a forum (using facebook perhaps) where those who would like to donate books but are not traveling to Ethiopia can connect with and send books to those who are traveling to Ethiopia. Does anyone have any ideas to share?
Thanks a bunch for visiting and please feel free to share any ideas in the comments section below.