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Books headed to Africa

African library
Dec. 30, 2012 @ 11:16 PM

KENOVA -- Sarahbeth Bailey and Mandy Tee are moms who enjoy reading to their children.

That's not always possible for children in poverty-stricken countries, where books are scarce. That's what led to the African Library Project to be founded in 2005 by a California woman who had visited remote villages in Lesotho, a small mountainous kingdom in Southern Africa.

Tee, a Wayne County native who now lives near Richmond, Va., read about it in a Disney Family Fun Magazine earlier this year and then called Bailey, who lives in Kenova, to see if she wanted to join forces and help build a library.

Each person or group that signs up is charged with collecting 1,000 gently used, age-appropriate books and raising $500 to help pay for shipping. Tee said the schools in those rural communities have few books and teacher resources and greatly benefit from what one group can do.

"They have no books, and teachers are teaching without materials," Tee said. "The challenge is to collect 1,000 books. You build the library."

The two moms collected books and funds in two states, even getting together for a bake sale in Kenova back in the spring when they launched their effort. It took about six months to meet the goals, they said, and the books were mailed out just before Thanksgiving.

Bailey said they ended up with enough books for one and a half libraries, thanks to generous relatives, friends and educators. One teacher, she said, donated 375 books.

"The books came really fast," Bailey said. "We finished in August and had so many I had to borrow a room at our church. I never dreamed I could touch a whole school in Africa."

To help with raising the funds, Bailey was able to organize a pajama day at her son's elementary school, where students paid $1 to wear their PJs to school. Half of the funds raised went to the library project. The other half went toward Bailey's other charitable enterprise, an orphan project in Kenya. She helps sponsor 29 children and organizes local events to help provide food, schools supplies and a Christmas gift shipment for each child that included extra books from the library project.

According to the African Library Project website, 890 libraries have been completed in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Cameroon, Lesotho, Nigeria, Botswana, Swaziland, Malawi and Ghana as of August 2012, with more than 975,000 books donated.

For more information, visit www.africanlibraryproject.org.

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