Tag Archives: Book Aid International

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


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.”

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.

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!

Volunteers: we really couldn’t do without them

It’s the start of National Volunteer Week  (1-7 June), so we thought we’d spend a little time shining the spotlight on some very special people we couldn’t do without.

Millions of volunteers across the UK make an incredible difference to the work of charities, transforming the lives of people across the globe. Book Aid International is lucky enough to have a number of these men and women, and as Richard, our assistant librarian and volunteer coordinator says, “We really couldn’t do without them.”

Book Aid International’s volunteers come from all walks and stages of life. Some have retired and are looking to lend their spare energy to a good cause, others are between jobs or simply looking to do something different from their day role. We’re incredibly lucky to have such a loyal band too – Jean, for example, has been with us for around 20 years!

Each day is different, but on average we have two volunteers in each day, and they help in a number of ways – from office support, to the crucial shelving of books, and the packing and stamping of the enormous packages we send to communities in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, without them there’s simply no way we would be able to send more than half a million books overseas each year.

So to Jean and all of our other dedicated, hard-working volunteers, over the next week we’d like to say a great big thank you! Thanks to you, books can change lives.

Ethiopia day six: to Uganda

Rob’s last few hours in Ethiopia take him to the next country on his tour of Book Aid International partners: Uganda.

A morning flight from Addis takes with to the lush greenness of Uganda. I am picked up by Bernard Bamuhiiga, the librarian at Kyambogo University in Kampala, one of our main partners.

Bernard, takes me for a fresh fish lunch by Lake Victoria. An hour or so before, it looked like the plane I was on was trying to land on the lake! In the late afternoon, Gertrude Mulindwa, the Librarian from the National Library, whom I’ve known for some time now, pops by my hotel, and we catch up and talk a little about the needs of libraries in Uganda, especially in the area of children’s librarianship.

The National Library is our other main partner. Over the next week I will see a combination of public and community libraries supported by the National Library, and school and college libraries supported by Kyambogo University.

Ethiopia day five: public libraries, a school and an NGO

Rob continues his trip across Ethiopia.

Day 5: public libraries, a school and an NGO

Another day criss-crossing Addis, this time to see a few more public libraries, a school library and a mothers and children charity or non-governmental organisation (NGO), that have been supported by the British Council, our partner of many years. Addis is becoming a huge city and the City Council’s plans for libraries are big – there must be well over 100 now. The first one I see today is located in an almost built 4 storey youth centre, which will be an impressive facility once complete, containing a café, games centre, IT lab, community hall, as well as the library, which apart from a couple of not yet used table tennis tables, is the only thing in the building at present.

The NGO – the snappily named Mothers and Children Multisectoral Development Organisation or MCMDO – has dedicated staff who are clearly keen to encourage reading. They run a school and let the children into their small resource centre to use the small collection of children’s books. The also run a Scouts Club with reading activities in Amharic on a Saturday and make sure they ask the children about the books they are reading. They also run a youth resource centre where there is a further library.

Lunch is at the Top View restaurant which 7 years ago, when I last came to Addis, did indeed have a Top View right across Addis and the mountains behind. But Addis is creeping up its hills so the view is still good but perhaps not the top one any more!

The Catholic School is quite well resourced, and it shows. I talk to a class of children in Grade 3 (aged about 8) whose English is very good, which is rare at such an age in Ethiopia. Asked if they like books, they quickly respond, ‘I like The Little Dinosaur!’ and ‘I like The Giant Tortoise!’ A small boy gets up and tells a tale in English about a thief who stole some gold.

There are actually two schools, an elementary and high school, and both have libraries. Book Aid International books such as GCSE Biology have clearly been used and the Director promotes an ethos of reading amongst teachers and pupils. In the elementary school, teachers borrow books to take to their classes. Schools in Addis are noticeable for being high rise – with space in the city at a premium many schools are 5 or 6 storeys high, and quite unlike the typical African school.

I end the day with the staff of CODE Ethiopia, eating the traditional Ethiopian dish, njera, which is a giant, sour, spongy pancake or flatbread accompanied by various spiced meats. It leaves me feeling quite spiced out.