A new site, and a new home for the Book Aid International blog

Over the past few months, the good people of Book Aid International have been busy at work behind the scenes of our home on the internet. So much has changed over the last few years, with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and the rest of the social web. We have a brand new refreshed website!

At Book Aid International we’ve done our best to grow with the world of social networks, and we’ve been talking to you, our friends and supporters, through Facebook and Twitter, and this blog, to explain more about our work and the difference that you can help to make. As time has gone on, we’ve grown ever more aware that our website couldn’t keep up.

So a change was definitely needed.

Book Aid International’s new site better reflects our approach to the web, including our little outposts on different social networks. Hopefully, you should find it easier to stay up to date with our work, the latest events and opportunities to support us, and stories about where and how you help us to make a difference. As part of that, the Book Aid International blog is on the move again. From today you’ll be able to find it on the main site, meaning you don’t need to click back and forth any more.

For a limited time we will post here as well, but in a couple of weeks or so, we’ll close down bookaidinternationalblog.wordpress.com. So please check out the new Book Aid International site, and if you’ve been kind enough to bookmark this blog, please update the details to reflect the new address. We’d love to know what you think!


World Book Day success stories continue

Long after our frenzy of fundraising activities around World Book Day, we continue to hear wonderful stories about what you got up to. This, from Judy at James Allen Prep in London, is a great example:

“At James Allen Prep we were thrilled to have raised £1,450 pounds, enabling the sending of 726 books to sub-Saharan Africa.

“We celebrated reading with a week of activities including; a ‘Big Read’ on World Book Day, an ‘Extreme reading’ competition (with bookworms captured reading in trees, swimming pools and even a washing machine), a visit to our local Village Bookshop, where Hazel read to us while we used our book tokens, and bedtime stories, where classes brought teddies and chocolate milk to be read to by teachers in pyjamas.

“There were displays of activities, and each child was given a bookworm on which they could mark the books they’d read. Sponsorship was optional but the support was enormous; everyone was delighted to support such an important cause as Book Aid International. Let the world read!”

Thanks very much to all the James Allen pupils and your teachers! Your support was amazing, and it really will make a difference. Thanks to you, we’ll be changing more lives through books.

We always love to hear your stories – about fundraising for Book Aid International, or simply your relationship with books – so if you have one you’d like to share, please get in touch!

How volunteers make a difference

This was taken at our last volunteer evening.

Our volunteers come in all sizes!

No doubt you know about World Book Day and may have even seen some of the World Book Day fundraising action that we’ve posted on this blog. We are always enormously grateful for the support we get from children and love how enthusiastic they are about what we do here at Book Aid International.

Because of this we were very excited to team up with St George’s CE Primary School just down the road from our headquarters. The school had a ‘dress up as your favourite book character day’ for World Book Day and raised a fantastic £150 for Book Aid International sending 75 books to Africa. They then had a competition to decide the 2 best dressed children in each year group (ages 5-11) who were then chosen to come and pay Book Aid International a visit.

We often have volunteers in and out of our offices, but not normally fourteen school children, so it was great fun!

The kids arrived at 1.45 and Martina, our Trust and Corporate Fundraiser showed them around our warehouse where all our books are kept, told them about where the books come from, what we do with them when they arrive and what happens to them when they leave us.

The children were happy to hear that the money they raised would be sending these books to Africa and quite possibly to children so similar to themselves. They were able to browse the book shelves for a little while before starting to help us stamp the books.

Gathered round tables, with stamps in their hands, in just one hour the children managed to stamp 1,946 books between them! Amazing! And not only that, but at 2.30 when they had to back to school most of them wanted to stay for the rest of the afternoon, even if it meant missing their tea!

Interested in volunteering? Get packing!

Has National Volunteer Week or reading the Book Aid International blog made you interested in doing some good? Would you like to dip your toe in the water, to see what it’s like before you consider making a bigger commitment? Then look no further.

On Wednesday 6 July we’ll be holding another one of our regular volunteer evenings, a great way to meet new people and have fun, whilst also learning more about our work and helping to change lives in sub-Saharan Africa.

From 6pm we’ll be receiving both new volunteers and familiar faces for an evening tour of Book Aid International’s warehouse, followed by some packing of books into parcels to go overseas – the wheels of which will be greased by plenty of drinks and nibbles.

So it’ll probably end up looking something like this:

If you’re interested, just let us know by emailing Martina, our volunteer coordinator, on martina.armstrong@bookaid.org. If you can’t make 6 July, get in touch anyway! Our volunteer evenings are a regular occurrence, and tend to take place in the first week or so of each month and we can keep you on our regular mailing list.

We’d love to see you there!


Could you be a champion for our cause?

We’re incredibly lucky to have such a strong team of volunteers supporting us at our London base. But there’s definitely a role for people who might like to support us from around the UK.

Specifically, we’re looking for champions for Book Aid International: passionate, talented people who can go out to regional businesses, schools, libraries, bookshops and other organisations and talk about the work we do. These regional champions could make a massive difference to our work, and therefore to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in sub-Saharan Africa.

You see, as a small charity, a great deal of our fundraising work is concentrated in London and the south-east. We simply don’t have the resources to talk to people further afield at the moment. And every £2 you can help us raise with those organisations around the UK will help to send another book overseas. There’s lots of potential – and it could really help you to use or develop your skills and experience.

Interested? We would offer full training and support to anyone who’d like to be one of our regional champions – so you’ll have all the vital facts and other info to hand, along with materials that pack a punch. And we’ll make sure that you (and anyone else that decides to support us as a result of your work) can understand exactly what kind of a difference you’re making.

To express an interest in becoming a regional champion, just leave us a comment below with your details or email jacqui.scott@bookaid.org. Ideally we’d love to know a bit about you, where you are from and how you think you may be able to help us.

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!