African Library Project

Some Book Drive Organizers Exceed All Expectations


COLLECTING 1,000 BOOKS is not a challenging enough goal for some of our book drive organizers. Passionate about making a difference in the lives of African children, some organizers exceed all expectations and gather thousands of books for several libraries—by taking a road trip, brainstorming unique creative solutions, or even establishing a club.

At Gulf Breeze High School in Gulf Breeze, Florida, faculty advisor Edward Pate read a local article about a Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho who was collecting books for ALP. Within a few short weeks, Edward gathered 400 books to help the volunteer. When high school students became fascinated by Edward’s donation, he decided to establish a book drive at the school through the National English Honor Society. “Community and student involvement so surpassed expectations that we were able to send books for six libraries,” he said.

If boxing up over six thousand books weren’t already impressive, during spring break, Edward and two high school seniors William Farmer and Allen Wang and William’s mother, Lee Farmer, took a road trip to personally deliver their books to ALP’s New Orleans warehouse. “One of the benefits of the project has been students’ increased awareness of the culture and economics of Africa,” said Edward. In May, the Honor Society hosted State Department visitors who were women from five different African countries with engineering specialties from telecommunications to undersea drilling.

Thirteen-year-old Lucas Popp from California chose ALP for his Bar Mitzvah service project because he loves books. “Reading has given me a chance to enjoy many wonderful things. I felt other people should have the same opportunity,” he said. “How easy the book-collecting was surprised me, and getting donations was also very easy.” Lucas’s clever imagination led him to a very bright idea: When people bought new books at his school’s annual book drive, he suggested that they get rid of their old ones. He even created a raffle with stuffed animals as prizes to encourage students to donate even more old books. Needless to say, it was a big hit! Lucas’ mom, Nancy Popp, was very supportive in his project. “I could not have done this without her,” he said. “She gave me the love of reading that I have today.” Lucas wowed ALP by collecting three thousand books for three libraries.

Five years ago, Mary Peterson’s sixth grade class at River Trail Middle School in Johns Creek, Georgia was reading the novel The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall.  The book's theme highlights the importance of helping others with our gifts. Wanting to breathe life into this concept and connect the book to her students’ life experiences, Mary began searching for a project and discovered ALP. “The students work very hard to see this project to a good conclusion for the sake of their ‘friends’ in Africa,” said Mary. Once Mary’s sixth grade students graduated, they wanted to continue collecting books. Inspired by her students’ persistent passion, Mary created the African Library Project Club—complete with t-shirts! Each year, a club motto accompanies the book drive. In 2007, the motto was: “I Can Change the World,” and since then, the club has helped start 27 libraries.

With a little creativity and dedication, each of us can change the world.  As these book drive organizers have proven, it’s actually much easier than we think.


June, 2012