Book Aid International, a charity that supports literacy by increasing access to books, is returning to Sierra Leone.
The charity, which ships around a million books each year to libraries in sub-Saharan Africa, sent a shipment of 38,000 brand new, carefully-selected books to Freetown to help the country rebuild after the Ebola crisis.
Book Aid International withdrew from Sierra Leone in 2007 after the end of UK government funding caused the charity to reduce the number of countries it operated in and focus on East Africa. Since growing its income streams, assisted by the People's Postcode Lottery, which started supporting the charity late 2014, Books Aid International said it is once again in a position to support Sierra Leonean libraries with donations of brand new books for a range of libraries.
Books on the first shipment are bound for Sierra Leone Library Board which runs a network of 20 public libraries as well as supporting schools, hospitals, universities and prisons as well as to local NGOs supporting education in Sierra Leone. They range from children’s phonics books and early readers to academic texts, medical and healthcare books and adult fiction.
The Ebola outbreak killed almost 4,000 people in Sierra Leone in 18 months, but was declared free of the disease by the World Health Organisation in November 2015. As the country begins to rebuild, Book Aid International has said it hopes its support can "help people get back to normal life and restart their education". Libraries in the country are reportedly well-used but many of the book collections are outdated.
Book Aid International director Alison Hubert said: “We are delighted to be able to support library services in Sierra Leone at such a crucial point in the country’s redevelopment. Although recent events in Sierra Leone have been devastating, we have been very encouraged by the dynamism and commitment of the Sierra Leone Library Board to help people continue in their lifelong learning even in the most challenging of circumstances. There are many great outreach projects being implemented in Sierra Leone that help people to access books and reading resources and we hope our books can play a small part in helping Sierra Leone and its people to rebuild and to fulfil their own potential.”
Sallieu Touray, chief librarian at Sierra Leone Library Board, said: “The intervention Book Aid International is making at this critical time with a shipment of 38,000 relevant books to Sierra Leone for distribution and reading promotion activities is a great boost to the education sector. More users, pupils, students and educators will be exposed to books (the most important resource in education) and this will enhance teaching and learning in Sierra Leone.”
Book Aid International works in 12 African countries and the occupied Palestinian territories to distribute books and learning resources and to train librarians. The charity partners with local library services and communities to provide "safe, engaging" spaces to access books and reading.