Thursday, April 26, 2007
By: Julia N. Opoti
Liberia’s Consul General, the Honorable Alexander P. Gbayee, was in St. Paul yesterday, as a guest speaker at an annual fundraising luncheon for Books for Africa (BFA). Since its inception, almost twenty years ago, BFA has grown to become the largest shipper of donated books to Africa.
At a time when Liberia is recovering from the effects of a long civil war that has striped the country of all its physical resources, the role of BFA in providing books for this generation of Liberians cannot be more pivotal.
In narrating his childhood drive to read, Gbayee expressed the challenges faced by children all over the continent. His father wanted him to learn English so that he could read letters sent to his village. At eleven, Gbayee went to a classroom for the first time. Although the school was free, it did not have textbooks, and for two years the school used magazine cut-outs to teach its pupils to read.
Gbayee is confident that access to textbooks will enrich the lives of many Liberian children, “In the future these books will change the lives of many Liberians”, he said.
Among many partnerships across Africa, BFA is partnering with the Liberian government to ship 335,000 books to rebuild its educational infrastructure. BFA will also work closely with the University of Liberia to meet the needs of its students.
Twin Cities based scientist, Dr. Azah Tabah from Cameroon, appealed to fundraisers to invest in the future of a generation. In a presentation demonstrating the need for textbooks by children in Bali, Cameroon, Dr. Tabah stressed the meaning of education to a continent that is building itself. “These are basic educational needs,” she said
This year, BFA celebrates the opening of a larger warehouse to meet the growing needs of children in Africa. According to founder, Tom Warth, the reason for giving is simple. “These books would otherwise be recycled. We should simply invest in shipping costs, a mere thirty eight cents per book.”
BFA donates books to about 26 English speaking African countries shipping about 22 tons of books each week. Guinea Bissau will receive books for the first time.
In attendance were about three hundred members of the larger Minnesota community.
Gandhi Mohamed, a Minneapolis entrepreneur and native of Somalia, was touched after watching a video presentation of a young South African girl who vowed to work hard, and with an education, find a cure for AIDS. Mohamed said, “It is important that the African Diaspora join the efforts of others to empower our children.”
Books for Africa urges all to end the book famine in Africa. You can find them at www.booksforafrica.org.