African Library Project

The Lexington African Library Project

09/22/2018 onward
Lexington MA

We are working with the African Library Project to provide books to eager readers in Africa who have very few books. Please help us by collecting and delivering gently used books or by raising money to help pay for shipping to Africa. It takes only 1000 books and $500 (plus a little elbow grease!) to start a single library and make a huge difference in children’s lives.

This book drive is organized by ...

I (Lisa Foo) am a mom of three amazing daughters -- who all love reading! I tell my kids that my highest values are for them to be kind, to be grateful, and to work hard for what is important to them. I also happen to be a Lexington-based psychologist, and in this community of plenty have often been struck by both adults and kids struggling to figure out how they matter, and how they can feel good about themselves and their actions above and beyond just achieving. I also regularly see how easy it is to get stuck thinking about what's going wrong in our lives and what doesn't seem fair, and how thinking about the challenges that others face can open our eye to gratitude for all that we have, transform our mood, and help us to be kinder and more understanding to those around us.

Our website link:

We want to start a library in Africa because...

I love libraries and can't imagine not having any access to books, the internet, or other written information. I’m fortunate to live in a community that is both filled with books (many just sitting around not being read -- and sometimes even making it harder to find the books on our shelves that we actually want to read), and also generous individuals who want to be helpful, but who don’t always know where to start. I feel especially drawn to trying to spread compassion and kindness given the increasing hostility I see in my nation and world, and a desire to correct the view that those in other countries may have that Americans are self-centered and uncaring. I thought that helping to create a library (or few!) in Africa would be a wonderful way to give to others and model my core values for my kids. I hope to help those in Africa who are struggling through a book/information famine, and simultaneously to empower myself and my neighbors here in the U.S. to feel good about making a difference and seeing what important members we can be to our global community. Additionally, I was struck by reading that educating girls is one of the most effective strategies for addressing global well-being and even climate change, and that libraries can provide a route to literacy for even girls and women unable to attend school. I’m excited that the very tangible nature of giving a book from our homes directly to those who need them allows even young children to be part of this journey and to hopefully fuel a lifelong habit of helping.

About our African Partners...

Exciting news -- I have just found out that one of our libraries will be hosted by the CHANE Foundation and will be housed in a new early childhood center that they are currently building (see photo at the bottom of this page)! The new center will house an early childhood program that will not only provide education for preschoolers, but will also provide a safe place for these children to be during the day, which in turn will allow their older sisters to attend school instead of needing to stay home to take care of them. The CHANE foundation (whose founder and director is a woman) additionally plans to provide outreach into local communities encouraging families to educate their daughters. This new library will serve as a community resource for students of all ages, including those attending primary, secondary school, and college in the larger region. All together, it is estimated that this new library will be supporting 2,000 members of the community!

We will also be sending a second library to Malawi in May, likely at a large primary school that will members of the community to also access the library. They expect to serve 3,000 readers! We additionally anticipate sending one library each to Kenya and Uganda over the next few months!

I decided to help create libraries starting in Malawi specifically because of how high the level of need is there. About a third of adults can't read at all, with even high illiteracy among females. Over 9% of adults are HIV+, leading to huge numbers of orphans. Most families are farmers who are able to produce little if anything beyond what they need themselves to survive -- half of the population makes less than $1.25/day. Many families need their kids to stay home to run the farm and help with basic chores and so can't afford to let them go to school. There is also a shortage of adults educated enough to teach, and schools may have few (or even no) books due to their cost. A community library provides access to books even for those not able to attend school, or for adults who may want to learn to read or access information that they can use as tools to better their lives.

Please contribute these kinds of books...

I'm able to send to Africa books at an 8th grade reading level or below (though relatively easy to read books for teens and adults are very welcome!), that are not excessively heavy (unless it is "worth its weight"), not about holidays, and that do not promote a specific religion. I am especially seeking:

a. All non-fiction
b. Books featuring individuals who are Black and/or African, and/or celebrating diversity
c. Easy reader, picture, and chapter books
d. Educational children’s magazines
e. Educational posters/maps, Brain Quest type cards, and other teacher resources
f. Books and textbooks on Africa, agriculture, health/hygiene, HIV/AIDS, computers/IT, science, and business (these resources can be at more advanced reading levels)

Due to issues of shipping costs, paperbacks are especially appreciated when possible : ) . For books that I am unable to send to Africa, I will do my best to exchange them for books that I can send, or to sell them to raise the money to ship the books to Africa.

I also welcome donations of packing tape (especially heavy duty), plastic trash bags (to be used as water-proof box liners), and cardboard boxes in good condition (around 10x13x12 -- basically not so big that it would be too heavy once filed with books) for shipping.

Here's how you can contribute your books...

Please contact me if you have books that you would like to donate. I am also seeking book donations from stores and publishers, so please contact me if you are a store owner, author, or publisher, or have any connections! Please e-mail me if you would like a receipt for your book donations for tax purposes.

We need to raise funds for shipping the books...

For every 1000 - 1200 books that we are able to collect we can create one library in Africa! However, we also need to raise the money needed to ship the books first to a warehouse in the US, and then (via a shipping container) to Africa. The total cost will vary based on the weight, but will likely be in the range of $500-$800 per library. It would also be wonderful to have enough funds to buy specific books requested by the receiving communities and recommended by the African Library Project to serve as valuable development resources.

For those donating books, I invite you to consider also making a financial donation of $0.50 per book to cover their journey to Africa!

I am also actively seeking financial contributions from businesses and charitable organizations, so please contact me if your organization is interested or if you have any connections!

Here are some ways that you can help...

Right now I am most in need of raising the money for shipping costs, so any financial contributions are extremely appreciated! Financial donations by credit card can be sent through the GoFundMe page

Checks (made out to Lisa Foo with "African Library Project" in the notes field) can be mailed to me at 33 Bedford St Suite 11 / Lexington, MA 02420. Please also consider sharing information about this drive with others! I additionally welcome all book donations -- please contact me directly to make arrangements.

I could also use help putting together a resource list to include with the library describing various non-profits and other organizations that individuals in Africa might be interested in contacting for additional types of assistance.

Finally, I would love to be able to continue this project and continue to ship new libraries to Africa each year! I’m realizing, however, that I will not be able to continue to do this in the future without additional ongoing help, especially in terms of fundraising, book collection/sorting, and book storage. Please let me know if you're interested in helping with any of these!

Thank you so much for your consideration and partnership!!!

Contact us to find out more

Name: Lisa Foo
Phone: 612-237-8471

Progress Report

Our Goal 5,000 books $2,500 fundraising
Results so far
(updated: 3/15/19)
>4,000 books $1,495 fundraising

The two libraries that I shipped to Malawi are almost there, and I am in the process of shipping two libraries to Uganda by the end of this month! Details coming soon, though financial donations to cover the additional shipping costs are GREATLY appreciated!!!


Thanks to all who have donated books of any quantity, and who have sent money in any amount to help with shipping costs! Below are special shout outs to those who have truly gone above and beyond in their generosity.

A super thank you to author Laurie Thompson, who not only donated multiple copies each of her own books Emmanuel's Dream, Be A Changemaker, and My Dog Is The Best, but who went above and beyond by buying and sending me multiple copies of other favorite books of hers that she knew would be perfect for this audience -- Kay Kay's Alphabet Safari and Wilma Unlimited! And thanks to Kay Kay author Dana Sullivan for mailing me autographed nameplates to attach!

HUGE appreciation to best selling author Mawi Asgedom, who only after an hour after I sent the request, immediately contributed 5 copies each of his power memoir Of Beetles & Angels (recounting his journey from living in an African refugee camp to graduating from Harvard) and his novel The Third Harmony.

A heart-felt thanks to author Brad Meltzer, for donating two books from his EXTRAORDINARY New York Times best selling series Ordinary People Change the World! These books will be an amazing inspiration to those in Malawi, and I HIGHLY recommend that all of you take a look at these books for your own home libraries.

A tremendous thank you to Alexander McCall Smith for donating six books from his best selling series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (also the basis for an HBO series)! These beautifully written books are set in Botswana and so will be a rare opportunity for those in Malawi to read stories about fellow Africans.

Thanks to Dandelion Chocolate ( for donating two copies of their beautiful new book Making Chocolate, in hopes that it will give farmers in Malawi the tools and inspiration to consider starting a profitable cacao farm!

Thank you to Community Nursery School and Hastings Elementary School for hosting book drives for this project!

Thank you to the Lexington MLK Day of Service for sharing books donated through their annual book drive!

Thank you to More Than Words, a non-profit used book store with branches in Boston and Waltham that provides job experience for at-risk teens and young adults, for donating books that they have received but are not able to use -- an in exchange I am donating back to them books that I have received, but that are not a good fit for this project. I love win-win partnerships!

Thank you to librarians Brenda Rich at Hastings, Amy-Jo Conant at Fiske, and Jen Kuhn at Estabrook for donating books that have not been being read at their school libraries -- and in the process are making room for new books and are also making it easier for kids at their schools to find the books on the shelves that they do want to read!

Thanks to for purchasing a stack of cookbooks that I received as donations (but would not be a good fit for the needs of those in rural Malawi). Not only did this help me raise money for shipping costs, but Kids Cooking Green will be generously donating these cookbooks to their low income students at The Kennedy Center to encourage healthy eating!

Thanks to the Bressner, Chaplin, Croteau, DeVellis, Flynn, Fressin, Goldstein, Harrison, Icke/Adhikari, Irani/Shen, Kryder, Mathur/Venkiteshwaran, Mutooni, Sullivan, and Watanabe families, and other donors listed on the gofundme page, for their generous financial contributions!

Thanks to the Waldorf School Parent Community Association for donating unsold books from their recent rummage sale fundraiser!

Thanks to Lexington resident Pauline Benninga, who donated HUNDREDS of books that she collected from a variety of local sources (I’ll update the drive total after I’m able to count them all). What an inspiration!!

Todah rabah to the Temple Isaiah Sisterhood for donating all unsold books, movies, and CDs from their rummage sale to be used for the new libraries and/or sold to raise funds for shipping!

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About the African Library Project

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