Saturday, February 11, 2006

How YOU can help the school library in Anker, Namibia

Here's how YOU can donate books to the Edward //Garoëb Primary School Library in Anker, Namibia

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  1. Collect some books. Picture books are most needed, but if you can get good children's reference books they would also be well used. Remember that English is a second language for these students, so they read at a much lower level than American students of the same age. Some of the most popular books in the library are: Books by Dr. Seuss, Dorling Kindersley books, Disney books, Little Golden Books, Bible stories, board books, easy-to-read nonfiction books and any book that has colorful pictures, is easy to read (think preschool through 4 th grade reading level.) and is in relatively good condition (it's hard to get supplies to repair books here and the learners are hard on the books, so it's important that they aren't badly damaged to begin with.)

Some Ideas on how to collect books-

·Put up signs or put a collection box in your local public library, church, or school.

· Ask a local bookstore if they will put a box by the register so people can donate money or buy a book to donate. You could even ask if they have extra books on stock that they would be willing to donate

· Ask libraries if they are culling their collections and if they would be willing to donate the books (be careful that the books are in good condition and at the correct reading level, though, we have a lot of very old cloth bound books that no one ever touches because they are old, vastly too difficult for the learners, and they don't have any pictures)

· Look through your own collection of books for titles you don't want anymore

I will send some pictures of the library and the learners to my parents. You can use these photos to help promote your book drive or to encourage donations.

Information about Edward //Garoëb school that you can use to promote your book drive

· Edward //Garoëb Primary School is located in Anker, Namibia and serves roughly 300 students in the 1 st through 7th grades

· It is located in a very rural part of Namibia and although the students see wildlife often (one student asked me if they have elephants in America and when I told her "no" she gave a knowing nod and said, "Oh, just giraffes.") they don't often have contact with the outside world. Books can help provide that contact.

· About half of the student at the school live in the hostels (dorms for students who live too far away from the school) and many of the students have faced problems that result from the Aids crisis and the remnants of apartheid.

  1. Mail the books to me by M-Bag. M-Bags are available from the U.S. Postal service and are only used for shipping books in bulk. Ask about them at your local post office. Be sure you box up the books securely before sending them. The Postal service doesn't treat M-Bags with a lot of care and I've gotten M-Bags where the boxes have broken open and the books are in bad shape. M-Bags take between 1 and 3 months to arrive and I think it costs about $50 to mail 50 pounds of books (the nice thing about picture books is that it takes a lot of them to make 50 pounds.) When you pack the books, be sure to pack a sheet of paper with my name and address inside the box (just in case the label gets ripped off) and a list of the books you are sending (so I can check if they all made it.) If you have a little extra space you could probably sneak in a few little things (stickers, coloring books, or small prizes) for the children that we could use to reward students for reading, but you might get in trouble if you put in too many, so don't send a whole box of prizes.

  2. More about M-bags from Paul:
    I usually pick up a few M-bags from the desk at the main post office along with enough tags and custom forms for each one. Then I bring them home and pack the boxes there. You can send anywhere between 11 and 66 lbs. I usually send about 20-30 lbs because its easier to carry and it doesn't cost more or less based on weight. It is always about $1/pound. Plus I figure if I send several smaller packages, it might increase the odds she'll get one (and someone has to haul it 30 miles back from where she picks up her mail in Kamanjab).

    Just fill a sturdy box (or two since more than one box can go into each bag) of any size with books (you can put some other things in there like stickers, bookmarks, and stuff, but it is meant to be only books). Books for Amy can be included with all the other ones. Notes could be attached to the inside of the cover. A DVD could go inside the cover of a book but can be mailed in a padded mailer for about $7.00 by regular mail and will probably get there much sooner. She has a laptop, she uses for DVDs.

    Put a sheet with the address info inside the box (I don't always list all the books on the sheet as she says), then label or mark the box with her address, seal the box up good with tape (remember it probably gets thrown around some). Then fill out the tag and the customs form and bring the bag with the box inside to the main post office (leave the bag open because they need to stamp the box and close up the bag themselves).

    As Amy said, indicate donated books on the customs form and no value for the amount. If they ask, tell them it is surface mail not air. If you have questions let me know. She got one that my parents sent in about two months, but hasn't received one we sent three months ago. She also has recently received Mbags from people who were sending them to the previous peace corps worker from last year. So you never know how long or if they will get there. She will appreciate whatever you send.

Some Ideas on how to get the money to mail the books-

· If you hold a book drive, ask people to donate a dollar or two towards shipping. If there is extra money you could donate it to the school to buy materials to make library furniture (we are especially in need of more shelves for the books, but if we raised enough money we would probably use it to buy mats for the floors or wood to make tables and chairs so the students don't have to sit on the floor to read.)

· If a library or bookstore donates the books, ask if they would be willing to help with the shipping or if they would be willing to put a can by the front to collect money for shipping

· Beg shamelessly. This is what I've learned in the Peace Corps- You don't get anything if you don't ask. Ask local businesses, friends, family members, remote acquaintances and, if possible, complete strangers to donate. You may be surprised at how generous people can be.

Mail the books to:

Amy Pedersen c/o

Edward //Garoëb Primary School

Private Bag 5006

Kamanjab, Namibia


If you have to fill out a custom form, be sure to note that they are donated books and that they have no monetary value. If you claim that they are worth money then it's possible that my school or I will have to pay customs fees in order to collect the books. Also, and I know that this is a strange suggestion, but it's a good idea to put some religious message on the outside of the box. Something like "Jesus loves You!" The Namibian postal service can be a little bit corrupt, but the country is deeply Christian and other volunteers claim that packages are left alone more if there's some religious message written on them. Sometimes a little guilt can be a good thing.

  1. When the books arrive I will unpack them, process them, and put them on the shelves. If I know your email address, I'll email you as soon as possible (which might not be very soon) to let you know that the books arrived safely. Then I will send you a very nice, well-written thank-you note. If I can convince a few of the learners to write a note, then I'll send that too.

So that's how you can collect books for our library.

I know the kids here would really appreciate them. You would think that Christmas came early when we get new picture books. Thank you for your help. All of us here in Anker appreciate it!

Learn how the library was started by clicking:
Books to Namibia

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