... or rather, giving back time -- giving back to all of you for the enthusiasm and creativity you brought to the 2018 version of 24 Festive Tasks!
As MbD said, there are many deserving charities with many deserving individual projects out there, and a heartening number of them are book-related. My choice this year, again, was a charity that not only fosters reading and education but, more specifically, girls' education:
I chose Bookfriends International, NFP, a U.S.-based, registered (501(c)3 tax status), volunteer-run nonprofit committed to helping educate children in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Malawi by providing secondary schools (equivalent to American grades 5 to 12) and teachers in these African countries with books, supporting educational materials and services donated by schools, libraries, used book stores, book clubs, educators, and private individuals. They work on a grassroots level, in direct contact with school administrators and village leaders in their African partner areas.
From their website:
"To understand what Bookfriends International is about is to understand our belief that education can generate the real, long-term solutions for many of our world’s problems. Strong democracies, vibrant economies, healthy societies and responsible birth control can only progress on the foundation of an educated population. We center our efforts around supporting the African education system.
Bookfriends International was founded on the belief that every child deserves a chance to learn and to develop his or her individual abilities. [...]
Our founders envisioned that the surplus and used books in America could be put to efficient use to bolster educational opportunities in Africa. After years of working with many school teachers and administrators in Africa, we know even more fully that good books, properly placed, create individual growth and bring personal victories of dynamic proportions.
We know that when hearts and minds become hopeful, helpful and forward-looking, communities and whole societies benefit. Education is basic to tackling poverty, corruption and social injustice and to keep those problems from passing to the next generation.
An important element of our philosophy is to provide the right books to a school at the right time. We work closely with African schools to satisfy their individual needs."
"Bookfriends provides children and their educators and librarians in Africa hope for the future. Education is the key for African youth to become self-sustaining and contributing citizens of a better world. Each book we donate is very much like casting pebbles into a still pond: the ripples created by each book received, creates the awakening of a young mind!
The schools’ needs are pre-determined prior to gathering books for a shipment through direct contact with our established and growing network of school and village leaders in Africa. [...]
Each school receives a well-chosen library of approximately 1,000 books. To date, more than 100,000 students have found a productive direction for their lives, thanks to volunteers and donors of Bookfriends."
A donation of USD 100 will provide for 200 books -- or one fifth of the library provided to one particular school.
The types of books being shipped include scholastic material for all major subjects, including STEM, English, world history and geography, economics / business, health, music, and fine arts; as well as library resources and reference material (dictionaries / encyclopedias, thesauruses, and copies of National Geographic), and also fiction books. A detailed list can be found here.
In addition, Bookfriends International has initiated a Girls' Project to assist African girls to stay in school longer. They explain:
"In many cultures around the world, including Africa, girls are often not valued very highly. It is just the way it is, and has been for centuries.
How can this change?
There ARE solutions, and Bookfriends is working on an initiative to encourage the girls to remain in their classrooms consistently simply by having monthly hygiene supplies. By staying in school, they are able to continue receiving an education. Education can change their lives dramatically.
The educated female students, in turn, are more valued by their families and communities. As the young women display their capabilities, they are appreciated more than ever by their peers as well. Additionally, the great increase in their self-esteem as educated young ladies gives the girls aspiration and visions for a healthy and productive future.
If a girl can remain in school all month, she won’t fall behind in her classes. If she stays home for a week per month, she may not be allowed by her family to return. She will have less risk of becoming a victim of sex trafficking if she can remain in school. [...]
Each container of books that we ship serves 10 schools, in which there are approximately 4,000 female students."
The monthly hygiene kits provided by Bookfriends and its volunteer contributors contain the basic items that women in North America and Europe have come to take for granted, but which are still in woefully short supply in parts of Africa and elsewhere in the southern hemisphere, such as pads and clean underwear; as well as information brochures. Obviously, menstrual hygiene is only one of the hurdles that girls in Africa have to overcome on their path to education, but it's one of the most jaw-droppingly basic ones, and I love seeing a charity that understands and addresses the fact that education -- especially women's education -- is not an issue separate and apart, but can only be truly successful if it is seen in conjunction with the students' lives outside school (or at least those aspects of their lives that have the very real power of negatively impacting their learning and school attendance).
(All images in this post from the Bookfriends International website)
ETA: I've had not one but two very nice, personal emails from one of the co-founders of the project thanking us for our donation and expressing appreciation for the BookLikes community. From her emails I take it that our donation will go towards funding books, but it will also make a significant contribution to the girls' project. W00t!