African Library Project

Engudumeni African Library Project in Partnership with US Peace Corps

03/01/2015 to 05/01/2015
Orinda CA

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 ...

Theresa & Charles, the parents of Chris Vitt, a Peace Corps volunteer who is currently serving in Nqutu, KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, teaching 5-6th grade English and Math.

Our website link:
To make a donation of funds click here - reference SA2-12 in Comments section to direct your donation to Engudumeni Primary School:

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

We are excited to tap into the high level of support for education within our circle of friends and community to build Engudumeni Primary School's first library. The reference books, workbooks and story books provided by all will make a real difference to Engudumeni's young students and their teachers for years to come.

About our African Partners...

From Chris: The school where I work, Engudumeni Primary, is located in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal near the historic battlefields of Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana Mountain. All of the students are of Zulu heritage, and their home language is IsiZulu, which is what they are most comfortable speaking as they rarely have a chance to practice spoken and written English outside of their time at school.

Our school is fairly small with a current enrollment of 76 students and staffed by five teachers other than myself. Engudumeni Primary teaches from kindergarden to the eighth grade but since we have only five classrooms, a majority of classes are multigrade. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, my work includes teaching a multigrade class of grades five and six while also pursuing secondary projects such as after school programs, maintaining a school garden and building a school library.

Due to the small enrollment size of Engudumeni Primary and its isolated location among farmlands, the school receives little aid from South Africa's Depatment of Education. As a result, we have a very limited number of books for students and educators to draw upon for use in the practicing and teaching of English. What books the school does have are often wildly unsuited for primary school students. For example, we have several copies of the The Scarlet Pimpernel; try handing that to a ten year old who is still very confused by irregular verbs.

Although there are eleven official languages of South Africa, English is arguably the most important language skill for learners to develop, as students from grade four onwards are required to be instructed in English. Furthermore, all national standardized tests are conducted in English. So if students possess weak English skills, they will do poorly on these exams which then reflects poorly on their respective school. English is also a crucial language for employment prospects after graduating from high school or continuing on to university, meaning that English proficiency can make an impressive difference in a country with an unemployment rate of over 30%. In fact, many of my students come from families with unemployed or even illiterate parents.

All of this is to say that these students would be overjoyed if you could donate any unused or extra copies of children's books to expand our fledgling library. What we desperately need are any books suitable for preschool to grade six in an American school. This includes child friendly atlases, encyclopedias, dictionaries, as well as both fiction and non-fiction picture books. Other welcome donations are educational posters like wall maps. All donations will go to a good home in a safe and secure part of the school where young minds can be encouraged to experience the joys of reading.

Names of donors will be recorded on posters lining the walls of the library and photos of the completed library will be sent along with letters of thanks from students.

Please contribute these kinds of books...

• Paperback easy readers, baby board books, kid’s picture books
• Paperback juvenile literature/Chapter books
• K-8 textbooks (English, math, geography & science)
• Atlases, & children’s encyclopedias (post 1990)
• Paperback dictionaries, children’s thesauruses
• Books about Africa or African-Americans
• Educational children's science & literary magazines in good condition
• Brain teasers, flash cards, educational games and puzzles

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

Drop off points:
Our House: 10 Glorietta Ct. Orinda, CA 94563
5A Rent-A-Space: 455 Moraga Rd., Moraga, CA
Email Theresa at and I will make arrangements to pick the books up.

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

We need to raise up to $500 to ship the books to New Orleans, and another $300 to fund shipment from New Orleans to Africa. Once the books reach New Orleans, the African Library Project crates and ships them to Africa. All donations are appreciated - and can be made electronically via the link above, or sent by mail to our home address.

Electronic donations will be directed to international shipping, and ALP will provide a receipt.

Donations made by check will be directed to domestic shipping (from Orinda to New Orleans); checks should be written to Theresa Reynolds, and once I have a receipt from USPS I will provide you with a receipt for your donation.

We are happy to provide a receipt for all donations upon request.

Here are some ways that you can help...

Donate books, funds, cardboard shipping boxes (best size, 10x12x13, no wine/alcohol boxes please).

Pass along our information to others who may have gently used children's books to donate.

Host a book-donation event at your school, church or community group!

Contact us to find out more

Name: Theresa Reynolds call, text or email
Phone: 925.322.9072

Progress Report

Our Goal 1200 books $500 fundraising
Results so far
(updated: APRIL 21, 2015)
1200 books $500 fundraising

When we exceed our target of 1200 books, we will supply another ALP library that can use them to make their goal - so keep 'em coming - they will go to a good home!

Thanks to our generous donors, our book inventory more than doubled in 10 days; from 435 to 945 from March 22 to April 2!!! THANK YOU!! YOU ARE ALL AMAZING!!

Over 50 donors pitched in to provide books and educational materials for Engudumeni Primary School's library. What a wonderful community collaboration!

Feel free to include a note (or several) to the children of Engundumeni Primary School to personalize your contribution!

The San Francisco School collected 8 boxes of books as a global community service project!

Longfellow Middle School in Berkeley donated boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes (!) of books and workbooks as part of their global community service project!

Del Rey Elementary School (Chris' alma mater) collected 7 boxes of books as a Student Council service project!!

Our friends at Genentech (spearheaded by Noel Dybdal) publicized our book drive and many employees donated books!

Holly Dybdal-Hargreaves of Texas sent 6 boxes of books, and rallied her network of committed activist friends who donated box after box after box of books for Engudumeni Primary School!

Our friends at Novartis provided a donation station and employees donated and mobilized friends and family to provide books!

Becky Jeger donated a full set of encyclopedias!

Gayle Parlette donated a full set of children's encyclopedias!

We made our financial donation goal! THANK YOU!!

We have received books from family and friends in California, Texas, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Oklahoma!

We are so grateful for your support :-)


Thanks to 5A Rent-A-Space, Moraga:
- posted flyer; donation station, discounted rate for book storage
Thanks to Global Book Exchange of Marin:
- shipping boxes, discounted educational books
Thanks to Friends Corner Book Shop of Lafayette:
- generous donation of children's books
Thanks to Novartis, Emeryville:
- book collection site for employees
Thanks to these generous friends and neighbors for books, funds, or flyers:
Eileen Ambre
Janice Andrews
Amy Blodgett
Katy Buckley-Smith
Anne Carey
Leslee Castillo
The Castillo Family
Janet Clarke & Rainer Sell Family
Deanna Dearborn
Hank & Michael DeHoyos
Ree Drummond
Noel Dybdal
Gudrun Dybdal
Holly Dybdal-Hargreaves
Elizabeth Farella
Karen Faulkner
Lou Flemming
Lisa Garnett
Our Friends at Genentech
Susan Higgins
Isabella Cantinella Hostrup
Becky Jeger
Joanne Killam
Paige Klein
John Kunich
Dave Lausch & Family
Anli & Ed Leong
Michelle & Michael Lewis
Joy Little
Longfellow Middle School
The Maltzer Family
Lisa McKeogh
Bev Milam
Lily Monti
Kristin Newkirk
Lauri Neyer
Gayle & Al Parlette
Monique Pi
Deana Pon
The San Francisco School
Leanna Sarty
Donna & Joel Schaffer
Thalia & Bob Siegal
Desiree Stephens
Ken Sutherland
Joyce Tarr
Debbie Trainor
In memory of Bob, Chris, Curtis, Clark & Craig Vitt
Wava Vitt
Patricia Wiechert
Malcolm Whyte
Joan Wlodaver
Kay & Peter Yanev
Anonymous book drop off (4)

Tips for Other Book Drive Organizers

Let your friends and family know about your book drive as early as possible. Set a cut off date that will allow 1-2 weeks for you to organize your books prior to the ship date. Contact your local schools (often interested in community service projects) and public libraries (many have library stores with excess inventory) and encourage your friends to mobilize their networks! We were fortunate to have friends who contributed and passionately inspired their friends/colleagues to do the same. In our case, having the words of a teacher from the school we were collecting for (Peace Corps volunteer Chris), along with photos of the kids and school on our website and as part of our initial email to family and friends provided a real sense of what was needed and how we could help. We have been overwhelmed by the response of our community and can't wait until the books arrive at the school.

Logistics: create a spreadsheet that keeps count of the books and is sortable by author first/last name, book title, condition of book, hard/soft cover and donor to manage duplicates and the mix of books (reference, workbooks, kids, chapter, etc.) - also it's very useful for the library; save a copy on a flash drive, or send a hard copy of the spreadsheet. In our case we will be able to deliver the flash drive and library inventory when we visit South Africa - likely prior to when the books arrive.

Contact a local storage company and see if they are willing to provide a non-profit rate: we stored our books, boxes and supplies there and kept a small table and chair so that we could work easily. We only needed it for 2 months and received a 1/2 price non-profit rate from our generous local storage facility. Being able to have a place to store the books and get them ready for shipment helped keep my mind and house clear!

Don't leave everything to the last minute, when you get a box of books, log them in. When you have duplicates hold on to them - when you meet your target you may find that you have a substantial number of extra books that ALP may be able to use for other libraries - let them know that you've got extras, it helps others who may need help making their goal!

Post your flyer on your front door or window so that people can see that they have come to the right place when they drop off books, and keep a clipboard with a sign in sheet so that people can let you know they dropped books off - we received many unexpected donations this way.

Have cards made up to thank your donors - you can custom make them with Shutterfly using photos from your school, or from activities during your book collection - take photos during this project, you will use them!

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About the African Library Project

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