Just why do people volunteer for Book Aid International?

There’s no way that Book Aid International could do as much as it does without its volunteers. With their help we deliver hundreds of thousands of books to libraries and communities who really need them. But what exactly do our volunteers get out of their work? We asked Christine, Laura, Carmel and Jean, who have all given their time at our London office, to find out.

BAI: So why did you decide to volunteer for Book Aid International?

Carmel: It’s a really great cause. Working in publishing, books and reading are a huge passion of mine and I think this charity does a great job in working towards ensuring that the people of Sub-Saharan Africa have the access to books that everybody deserves.

Carmel and her colleague Lucy (both from Orion Books) volunteering in our warehouse

Christine: Since retiring from a very busy HR Management post in the City a few years ago, I felt I needed something to partially “fill the gap”. I looked at several possibilities on the charity front, not wishing to spend my days serving in a charity shop but rather use some of my administrative and communication skills.

Jean: Job satisfaction: physical exercise which also meets my need for creating order and structure; good company, where hard work still leaves space for shared interests and laughter; and, above all, the opportunity to contribute to helping people in less advantaged countries to improve their quality of life.

BAI: And what do you enjoy about the work you do?

Laura: Volunteering gives me an opportunity to do something different. I volunteer in roles completely different to my day job and I love the balance that gives my professional and personal life.

Laura (left) stamping books in our warehouse with her sister, Phillipa

Christine: For me…it’s not the money (obviously being a volunteer I’m not paid!), it’s the social chit chat and the friendly interaction that I value. Sometimes I even get invited to weddings, Bah Mitzvahs, birthday, Christmas, leaving parties and such like. I really look forward to my hours at Book Aid International and unlike “real” work I never have to worry about it when I’m not there.

Jean: One of the best things is that employees and volunteers alike are treated as people rather than just cogs in a wheel, and colleagues become friends. I really enjoy my days there, as well as feeling a sense of satisfaction at playing some small part in a wonderful enterprise.

BAI: What sort of things do you do when you’re volunteering?

Christine: I spend a few hours each week in the office, working for anyone that has a need, on tasks such as data entry, database updating, responding to correspondence, stuffing envelopes, filing, telephoning and being whatever factotum they need at the time. I feel appreciated more than I ever did when I was earning “big money” for a multi national…they won’t get rid of me in a hurry, I just love it.

BAI: And can you say a book has changed your life?

Carmel: The book that changed my life is Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamande Ngozi Adichie. It’s so engaging, exciting and beautifully written. I think it was whilst reading this book I decided I wanted a career in the book industry.

Laura: I don’t know if I can say a book has ‘changed my life’ as such but as a teenager I read a lot of Jostein Gaarder and was particularly moved by Through a Glass, DarklyA Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is an excellent book. I highly recommend it!


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