This blog has now moved…

We mentioned a couple of weeks ago that this blog would be moving to its new and permanent home over on our website and so this is officially the last post here.

We shall keep this blog up for a little while longer so you can get your bookmarks organised, but we’d love to see you over in our new little space on the Book Aid International website.

Thanks for reading!

It’s National Reading Group Day!

Around the UK today, reading groups of all shapes and sizes are taking part in activities for National Reading Group Day.

åMany of them will be meeting up at their local library, bookshop or other agreed meeting place to have some fun and discuss a book. Some will be raising money for Book Aid International with Meet Talk Give.

And you could even win a visit from Dawn French to your reading group before the end of the year. So if you’ve ever felt like joining a reading group, today’s a good day to dip your toe in the water and find out more!

If you find out more about your local reading group, or your group is planning on fundraising, tell us about it – we would love to hear from you!

Kakuma

Clive Nettleton, our director of Book Aid International, reflects on an evaluation and partnership building visit to Kakuma in 2008.

“Kakuma refugee camp isn’t one of those places conjured from TV images. No rows of tents with a feeling of desperation and humanitarian agencies running feeding programmes. No television cameras recording an unfolding drama of movement, starvation and despair. Kakuma looks more like a huge urban slum, a Soweto or Kibera deposited in a remote rural area. It houses 70,000 or more refugees:  Sudanese, Somalis, Ethiopians, Congolese, Eritreans, Ugandans and a smattering of others washed up from decades of conflicts in the region. In Swahili Kakuma means ‘nowhere’ and it is at best a transit for somewhere else and at worst a place in which you are stuck for long, soul-destroying years.

Visiting the camp a couple of years ago, I was struck how people living there survived in the way that poor people in rural Africa do survive.

Despite everything life goes on and people make a life, but it is temporary, and sustained by dreams of moving somewhere better or returning home. There is little beyond survival. But the library started by a hugely energetic group of Ethiopian refugees most of whom had moved on was an oasis of peace and learning. In that oasis, as one Somali man told me “we are all brothers” and he thanked his erstwhile enemies of decades ago, the Ethiopians for their efforts. “We get food and shelter here,” he said, “but the library provides food for our brains.” And, I reflected, it is a huge contribution that Book Aid International makes in providing the books that fill this library. It won’t change the world, but it certainly changes the lives of many thousands of people living ‘nowhere’.”

 

 

Bikes and books – the most natural of bedfellows?

Whether you’re a novice or a keen cyclist, you may be aware that it’s National Bike Week at the moment. A national celebration of cycling, it’s an opportunity for you to brave the (so far) dismal British summer and take part in a wide range of pedal-powered events.

Bikes make for all sorts of strange combinations…bikes and ale, or bikes and camping being just two examples. Now there’s bikes and books! So if you’ve been bitten by the biking bug, there’s more cycling stuff happening later in the year that you might like to try.

Our Bike for Books event takes place on Sunday 4 September 2011. For just £30 each, you get breakfast, snacks, a ride past Rudyard Kipling’s beautiful Sussex home, an after-party and even a Book Aid International t-shirt or vest. All we ask is that you raise £300 or more in sponsorship, which will send 150 much-needed books to communities in African countries.

If you’d like to take part, sign up via the Bike for Books Facebook page, on Broadcause or the challenge registration page. We’d like to make it the biggest Bike for Books yet, so sign up today!

 

Our Appeal on BBC Radio 4

Well, today’s the day. Our appeal has gone out on BBC Radio 4’s Appeal Show for all to hear and we’re getting a fantastic response from it already. Lots of lovely comments that Alan Bennett is the perfect fit for Book Aid International (we completely agree), and a fantastic response to our cause.

If you weren’t able to catch our appeal this morning (it was on a little bit early – 7.55am), then there are plenty of opportunities to listen again.

The appeal will go out again tonight at 21.26 (Sunday 19 June) and then again on Thursday 23 June at 15.27.

You can also listen to it on the BBC Radio 4 website.

 

Refugees supported by book donations from Book Aid International, Kenya

Volunteer librarians Charles and Steve reading to children at the Nairobi slum in Kenya

 

Celebrating independent booksellers

This weekend sees the kick-off of Independent Booksellers’ Week, a fantastic national celebration of independent bookshops, which runs from 18 to 25 June. 

It’s all about recognising the special contribution that these bookshops make to local communities and to people’s reading, offering a passion, knowledge and range of books that some of the chains can’t match. This year, the week also includes National Reading Group Day on 25 June, which marks the flourishing trend for book groups in the UK, and the often strong link these groups share with their local independent bookshops. There will be advice on making contact with an established reading group, setting up your own, and ways of getting the most out of relationships with booksellers.

We’re very happy to support both initiatives – and equally delighted that National Reading Group Day in particular will support the work of Book Aid International by encouraging Meet Talk Give events within Reading Groups! With the help of independent bookshops around the UK, and the support of local reading groups, we’ll be changing more lives in sub-Saharan Africa.

If you’d like to find out more about Independent Booksellers’ Week or National Reading Group Day, check out their website, follow @IndieBookWeek on Twitter, or check them out on Facebook.

Alan Bennett records the Radio4 Appeal show, for us!

We have a guest writer for today’s blog post. Meet Jacqui Scott, our Head of Fundraising and Communications. If you have spotted some of our rather excited Tweets and Facebook posts recently, you’ll know that the rather wonderful Alan Bennett has recorded an appeal for us for the BBC Radio4 Appeal show to be broadcast on Sunday 19th June.

Jacqui was lucky enough to accompany him to the Radio 4 studios to record his appeal and this is her account of the day.

“Two sentences that any fundraiser just has to be over the moon to receive:

“Further to your application for a broadcast appeal, I am writing to advise you that, on the recommendation of its Appeals Advisory Committee, the BBC has pleasure in offering you a Radio 4 Appeal”

in an email from the BBC. And…

“Yes, I think I could do that” from hugely respected author and playwright, Alan Bennett, in response to my nervous, carefully worded letter asking if he would consider presenting the appeal.

This morning I had the great pleasure of accompanying Mr Alan Bennett to Broadcasting House to record our BBC Radio 4 Appeal, which will be first broadcast on Sunday 19th June (and if that’s a bit early for you, don’t worry, it will be broadcast twice more, and of course, is available on listen again from the BBC Radio 4 Appeal website).

I’m a huge Alan Bennett fan, but had never met him in person, so I aimed not to be a quivering, embarrassed groupy wreck when we met (of course, I’m not quite sure that I managed to achieve the cool, distant-yet-interested thing I’ve been trying to perfect for the past 40 years). The odd thing about meeting celebrities that you have followed, is that of course, you know “stuff” about them, and you can feel like they are already your friend, but of course, they know nothing about you – you have to pinch yourself once in a while. (Charmingly, Arthur Smith was leaving Broadcasting House when we arrived, and introduced himself to Alan Bennett – so I suspect all those feelings are not entirely restricted to the great unwashed like me!).

The recording itself was such an interesting process, and so professional – I can’t speak highly enough of the BBC staff, and of course, Mr Bennett himself. I know they live and breath this, but I found the way the BBC and Alan Bennett communicated so easily, really fascinating – a shared language of Broadcast! I’d never been in a radio studio (although I have been in several TV studios which are a whole different beast!). I liked the strange intimacy achieved with two small soundproofed rooms that are connected by a window – and some amazing technology.

But, at the end of the day, all I can do I now is to keep my fingers crossed and hope above hope that the appeal we recorded today will do the trick. Every £2 we raise through this appeal will enable Book Aid International to send one more book. I don’t even want to try to predict how much the support of Britain’s best-loved living playwright can do for us, and the amazing work our partners are achieving with the books we send, but I can plead that everyone reading this clicks on share, and helps get our message – that books change lives – out there.”