Aspen’s K-Kids Help Collect And Pack Books Headed To African Schools

Students at Aspen Elementary School hold up books to be donated to school libraries in Africa. Courtesy photo

Students at Aspen Elementary School. Courtesy photo

 

By SHARON ALLEN
Aspen Elementary Teacher
 
For the past year I have been preparing for retirement from the profession I have loved and dedicated my life to for over 30 years.
 
One of the things that weighed on my mind was how to make the best use of an amazingly large and diverse assortment of children’s books collected over the years. Four years ago I took a month-long camping trip to Southern Africa with 14 teachers from around the country.
 
At that time we visited many schools and most did not have a book in sight! I had a strong desire to somehow share my book collection with African students, knowing how books can change lives, but had no idea how to go about doing that. I asked my friends who were throwing a retirement party for me to please request no gifts other than maybe donations toward shipping books to Africa.  
 
Once I accomplished moving out of my beautiful new classroom at Aspen (a tough time for me!) in early June, I started researching the ways I might accomplish my goal.
 
While there are many organizations out there that will accept books you have mailed to them and then take more money to ship the books, this lacked the personal touch I so desired. But when I contacted The African Library Project (www.africanlibraryproject.org ) I knew I’d found the answer to my dreams! With 1,000 books and $500 one can create a library in a specific African school, know the name of the school, a little bit about the community, and even contact the head teacher! 
 
Without even counting I knew I had at least 2000 books in my personal library, enough for two school libraries, so I signed up and committed to 2 libraries in Botswana as that is one of the countries I had visited 4 yeas ago. The books would not be needed at the shipping port in New Orleans, Louisiana, until December of 2016 so I knew I had plenty of time to get organized. Knowing I would need help packing, I planned to rely on “my” former K-Kids at Aspen School as I had worked with that service club for the past 5 years. 
 
As a new retiree I felt it necessary for me to spend my summer in Buffalo, NY, helping my brother with my 91-year-old parents, still mentally active and living in their own home but facing numerous physical challenges. While there, the associate pastor of my parents’ church heard about my book project (my mom loves to tell everyone what I’m doing!) and asked if the church’s Vacation Bible School might collect books to add to my libraries.
 
After only three days, I had 500 books piled in my parents’ garage. I posted a few pictures on Facebook and was then contacted by a former high school friend, also a teacher and recently retired, and she said “I’ve got books for you!” Later that week she showed up at my parents’ house with a carload of well over 1,000 books. I called the African Library Project to see if there might be a need for an entire library in the near future.
 
Sure enough, there was a shipment scheduled for Sierra Leone and a promised library had ever materialized, so after a wild and crazy packing party in my parents’ driveway, off we went to the post office with 12 very heavy boxes carrying 1,024 books for the Education for All Primary School in Sierra Leone, West Africa.
 
Then came the end of summer and I traveled back to New Mexico, planning to get to work packing my personal classroom library. Social media is a very interesting thing because upon my return, I had people begging me to add their outgrown children’s books to mine. As the books kept coming in, I kept committing to more libraries.
 
Adult friends have been to my house to help pack and now the K-Kids at Aspen, after putting out a call to the whole school for donations of children’s books, are hard at work doing the same. At present, I have committed to three primary school libraries in Botswana and one community library plus two primary libraries in Kenya – and the books just keep on coming!
 
Just recently I learned that I was accepted to go to Kenya in May 2017 with Project Humanity as a volunteer to work with the teachers there who will receive these very libraries, helping them learn ways to implement the use of the books in their schools. My dream is to see my own books in the hands of African students – and now that just may be possible!
 
Should you desire to donate children’s books to this project feel free to contact me, Sharon Allen, at allenfamily926@gmail.com, and I will be happy to pick them up! Also, Barranca Mesa School’s K-Kids are helping, too, so books can be donated there or at the middle school through the Builders Club. If you are interested in learning more about The African Library Project please visit www.africanibraryproject.org.
 
Should you like to donate toward the shipping costs for these libraries, please go to http://africanlibraryproject. org/book-drives/book-drives- in-action?alpdetail=890.
 
Click the DONATE button at the top of the page and put my name and/or the code K1-06 in the box. And thanks for your interest!

Students at Aspen Elementary School. Courtesy photo

Students at Aspen Elementary School. Courtesy photo

Students at Aspen Elementary School. Courtesy photo

Students at Aspen Elementary School. Courtesy photo

Students at Aspen Elementary School. Courtesy photo

Students at Aspen Elementary School. Courtesy photo

Students at Aspen Elementary School. Courtesy photo

Students at Aspen Elementary School. Courtesy photo

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