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What I Have Learned from Book Drives

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My name is Divya Prakash, and I am a 15-year-old high school sophomore from Fremont, California. I’ve been involved with the African Library Project for the past 3 years. My team and I have coordinated the shipment of nearly 6,000 books to four different African nations!

Being involved with ALP has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I live in a world of books-- from Anna Karenina to the history of punk rock. But I always knew that the gifts of education, language, and literature--gifts I took for granted-- were scarce in many African nations. So, in winter of 2013, a group of like-minded friends and I sought to find an organization that could help us take a small part in sharing our love for reading with others. ALP was our immediate choice. We were struck by the passion behind the project. The love that the organization showed for children, its intense passion for the cause of literacy, and its deep understanding of the African partners and African students’ lives, inspired us. So, in early 2014, we embarked on our first book drive, for the Nkrankwanta Presbyterian School in Ghana

As we began working towards our goal of 1,000 books and $500, our team dove headfirst into a large and unfamiliar world--as young middle schoolers, we did not quite know how to take charge and be proactive.  But we learned and learned.  We learned how to approach adults such a teachers, store managers, and school principals to pitch the project and ask for support.  What I remember vividly is the first time I presented the project to a large group at school--it was nerve-wracking at first--but three years and 6,000 books later, public speaking is now comfortable and even enjoyable for me.

But what was even more refreshing than learning about our own capabilitiesDivya and friends to create change was learning about the lives of the African students, seemingly an entire world away, who were unpacking and reading the very same books that we lovingly sent them. Through ALP, I became more familiar with the geography of Africa, and how this played into the availability of resources. I learned about the low literacy levels and the immense need for books in their schools. At first, I couldn’t believe that even attending school was often problematic for African students--what is a 10-minute bus ride for me is often miles of walking for them.

I’ve done just a tiny part to help these students, but knowing a little more about their lives and the importance of literacy has inspired in me the desire to understand more (I hope to visit Africa one day) and, more importantly, to do more.