African Library Project

The Joy of Doing Book Drives

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The first time Joy Njuguna stepped into a US library in 2004, she had no idea what it was or why such a place existed. “I was confused,” laughed Joy, a high school junior at Impact Academy in Hayward, California. Once she realized that libraries loaned books, she was amazed and could not believe anyone was allowed to borrow multiple books at a time. “I made sure that I took pristine care of them,” she said.

Growing up in Kenya, Joy said, “I don’t ever recall seeing a novel.” The only books she saw were school textbooks. Owning a book was a luxury, even at the private, Catholic school she attended. If families owned a book, they were wealthy. The students who couldn’t afford to own textbooks at her school needed to stay late in order to complete their homework. When she did well in school, her uncle gave her one of the few books she owned: a prized possession.

When Joy learned about the African Library Project, she began interning last year in September and organized a book drive through her school’s Community Service Club in December. In only two months, she has already collected nearly 1,000 books to create one library in Ghana. She is even considering collecting for two libraries.

Initially intimidated by the number of books she had to collect, Joy worried, “A thousand books! That’s a lot of books, and how do I raise the money?” She began reaching out to the people she knew at school, as well as local libraries and bookstores. She also organized a bake sale at her school, and raised $77. Surprised at the number of people who demonstrated an interest in helping her, she said, “There are so many good people out there. I gained faith in people.” She quickly received more donated books than she imagined was possible.

Joy’s life goal is to help as many people as possible, especially women. Living in Kenya, she realized that many women do not have access to education because of poverty. While she attended school in Kenya, the women in her village, Olkeri, often had to stay home. Joy also wants to make her grandmother proud. Joy was raised for four years in Kenya by her grandmother, who never learned how to read. "I want her to feel proud of herself because even though she was not able to read, she raised a granddaughter who was able to provide the opportunity to many others," said Joy.

“By doing a book drive, it’s not that hard to spread education,” Joy said. She learned that it’s not that hard to do a book drive, either. For those who are afraid to organize a book drive, her advice is simply to start collecting one book at a time: “You start seeing things you would never see in people. It’s really touching, and it makes me really happy.”

February, 2012