African Library Project

Janbala employees600

Creativity, Cooperation, And Changing Lives… At Work!

When the employees of Janbala launched a book drive last fall, their motivation was to help create a library in Botswana, but in the process, they strengthened cross-departmental collaboration.

“We kicked off the book drive at an all-hands meeting with a presentation developed by staff from the marketing and commercial teams,” said Teal Brown Zimring, Director of Global Citizenship. “We saw this an opportunity to not just live our values through supporting ALP, but also to build cooperation across teams”

And cooperate they did. Janbala employees collected 1,600 books, 600 books more than the goal.

Janbala attributes this success to employees’ commitment and creativity. One employee used ALP’s recommended book list to search eBay to buy used copies for the library – and a treasure trove of signed family copies. Another employee got in touch with her daughter’s school, which was building a new library. She offered to repurpose the old books they no longer needed – and wound up with 200 used books for the Botswana library. Lisa Chen, wife of Janbala’s CEO Jason, went on foot to companies near Janbala’s headquarters, handing out flyers asking employees and businesses to contribute. ”In the end,”

Teal said, “we really demonstrated — and solidified — our own commitment to making a positive impact to the world around us. As a startup, it’s critical that we find every opportunity to reinforce this as we grow.”

During the drive, Mzwakithi (Mzwa Shongwe talked to Janbala staff about growing up in Swaziland and the impact that ALP libraries had on his life and world view. Alonzo Jennings, Interim Head of People Operations, describes Mzwa’s remarks as “eye-opening.” Mzwa helped us think about things we take for granted — schools with libraries. We realized the opportunities that we were given growing up.”

The team at Janbala offered some tips for companies that would like to run a book drive of their own.

“First, find a creative person who can develop some strategies for the book drive so it is unique to the company,” Teal suggests. Alonzo recommends putting the books in a visible place so employees can see the progress of the drive. Both endorse the idea of regular update emails to celebrate progress and remind all to contribute what they can.

With an extra 600 books on hand, Janbala is already thinking about planning the next book drive. “This project may feel small, but it makes a big impact,” said Teal. “The libraries change lives. Helping to create one as a company is exciting and inspirational for everyone.”

Janbala, a startup online travel agency, was founded on the belief that travel should generate a positive impact for both travelers and the communities they visit. It provides flight and hotel bookings all over the world.