1,000,000 books to Sierra Leone

Posted by Katy Petershack on March 24th 2009 in Organizations, Volunteers Edit

Cindy Nofziger, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone, traveled back to the country after the long civil war ended in 2002. During her visit, an old friend asked her to help rebuild the education system that had been destroyed during the decade of fighting. Nofziger wanted to do all that she could to help, “Sierra Leoneans gave me so much when I lived there as a Peace Corps Volunteer. When … one of my Sierra Leonean colleagues from that time asked if I would help him rebuild a school in his village that had been destroyed during the war, I told him I would try.”

War had destroyed much of the country’s educational infrastructure. Nofziger returned to the US and brainstormed ways to help. Within two years she had started Schools for Salone (SFS). The organization builds schools in rural communities where the government spends little of its resources. With access to education, children are often empowered to break the cycle of poverty in their towns.

Nofziger explains, “I work full-time for Seattle Public Schools and am a single mom with an 8-year-old son, so SFS is done in the wee hours of the AM or night. We are a completely volunteer organization with everyone working full time at day jobs.” The first school was funded by drawings from kids in Sierra Leone who wanted a chance to receive an education. Eight more schools have been built since and others are being constructed and planned.

An obstacle arises once the school buildings are ready: how to stock them with educational resources. The solution came through a partnership between SFS and Books For Africa (BFA), which collects and ships books to sites across Africa in order to “help end the book famine in Africa.”

Currently, SFS and BFA are fundraising to ship a first container of 22,000 English text and library books to support 13 rural schools and two universities. Long-term, the two organizations hope to send 1,000,000 books to Sierra Leone. Although this may seem like a difficult achievement, Books for Africa has shipped over 20.5 million books since its inception in 1988. Donated books are collected in its St. Paul, Minnesota, warehouse and shipped in 40-foot sea containers. Each container holds approximately 22,000 books and costs approximately $9,500 to ship to a major Africa sea port.

Books For Africa and Schools for Salone are working to help the people of Sierra Leone rebuild their country. BFA Development Associate, Carole Patrikakos, explains the importance of the organizations’ joint mission: “It is urgent that books get into Sierra Leone so that the children of now peaceful Sierra Leone are empowered to fulfill their potential to work, problem solve, access valid information, and pursue their dreams.” Nofziger echos Patrikakos, saying, “Education is the key to hope, opportunity and building better futures. It heals the wounds of war and [up]lifts communities.”

Schools for Salone (SFS)
Books for Africa (BFA)

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