My reunion with the books in Malawi felt surreal. I’m rarely lost for words, but as David Gordon (Chairman of The Book Bus) and I stood looking at the 63 giant boxes of books delivered – not a single word was spoken for what felt like a very long time. That was a reflection of our emotion.
David asked me to coordinate the Book in Every Hand back in March this year, with the aim of sending 5,000 books out to Malawi and I just happened to be blown into the office one day looking for a new voluntary project.
Of any projects I’ve experienced, this project has been a journey of epic magnitude, a real roller-coaster ride. I’ve been humbled by the gift of outgrown favourite books from school children in the UK and overwhelmed by the generous donations from bookshops, publishers and previous volunteers.....
The effort and management needed to pack and organise the books leading to the shipment brought many challenges and obstacles but by golly it was worth it – giving the books out to the children in Malawi made it absolutely worth it.
We handed the books out in six schools, an orphanage and a pre-school. We set up libraries in four schools. The first school we began the book handout was fantastic. We didn’t want to just give the books away; we wanted to introduce a book swap day to the learners hoping that by sharing their books they would have access to a much larger pool. The head teacher received a healthy stock of books for the school library and then supported the book handout, writing her own posters, fixing them to the trees around the school site and promoting the book swap day with heartwarming passion. It couldn’t have gone better.
What was my favourite memory from the first book handout? I have so many, two to share…
We gave the books out at the end of each storytelling session. The Book Bus volunteers would explain to the learners that these books were theirs to keep. I heard so many lovely stories of the children’s varied reactions from the volunteers, all positive. As a group of three teenage boys walked away with their books, they were discreetly comparing each other’s books only to place them in their back trouser pockets. I don’t know why I liked it so much – but I did. It was very natural, understated.
A group of more animated girls were delightfully chatting about their books, and one quieter girl placed her book on her head and walked on to her next lesson. I loved that!
As I stood looking at the children holding their books in Malawi – I felt a peaceful euphoria ‘we did it!
Your books and kind donations make a difference to the children of Africa. Thank you to everyone involved along every step of the journey and I hope you’ll join us and support us in 2012 on our next target as we aim to send 10,000 books to the Meheba refugee settlement, Zambia.
You can be part of this! Donate a book, organise a book collection, do some fundraising or why not experience this first hand…Why not collect books and then volunteer on the Book Bus from June to August in Meheba and be part of the book handout.
I look forward to hearing from you.