Literacy project hits the road with a renowned African explorer
Explorer Kingsley Holgate (right), delivers reading material to children in Angola as part of his humanitarian mission around the rim of Africa. The books were collected by Rotarian clubs in the U.S. and distributed by clubs in South Africa. Photo courtesy of Bruce Leslie.
African explorer Kingsley Holgate has teamed up with U.S. and South African Rotary clubs on a humanitarian mission through 33 African nations to distribute books to poor children.
The books come from a literacy project spearheaded by District 5890 in Texas and District 9300 in South Africa. The project, called “books for the world,” strives to provide reading and writing materials where few are available. U.S. clubs collect the books and South African clubs distribute them.
The project started after a meeting between Charlie Clemmons, past governor of District 5890 in Texas, and Edward Pope, past governor of District 9300 in South Africa.
“I said ‘We’ll bury you in books’,” Clemmons recalled of that meeting in 2000. “So for the last seven years, we’ve been working on burying them in books, and for the last seven years they’ve been increasing distribution.”
The project got a big boost this year when Rotarians from District 9300 began working with Holgate to distribute the books and bring publicity to the project.
Holgate, who has been compared to Scottish adventurer David Livingstone, has been trekking through Africa with his wife and son for the past decade. His journeys have been featured on National Geographic Television. In April 2007 he started a yearlong expedition around the rim of Africa. He and his team are distributing mobile libraries – beige trunks with the Rotary emblem that contain books and pencils – to schools and libraries along the way. He is also giving away mosquito nets and eyeglasses as part of his mission.
Holgate is now halfway through his expedition and recently passed through Guinea West Africa, where he gave away mosquito nets, pencils, and books to children at a school for the deaf.
“With Kingsley going around the rim, he’s making people aware that Rotary is out there and has resources available,” Clemmons says.
The book project has shipped 19 containers of books from Houston to Johannesburg, South Africa, this year. Each 40-foot container weighs 42,000 pounds and contains at least 50,000 books. District 9300 in South Africa recently opened a new distribution center to keep up with demand and donations.
The books come from schools, libraries, individuals, and Rotary clubs in 16 states in the United States as well as Canada and Australia. Not only are the donated books getting a second life – but so are the containers. They are large enough to be converted into classrooms, medical clinics, or libraries.
The project operates on individual, club, and corporate donations as well as grants from the Rotary Foundation. The project was awarded a US$12,500 Matching Grant from the Foundation this year. It costs $7,700 to purchase a container and ship it to South Africa.
Last year 20 containers were purchased and shipped at the cost of $134,800. This year Rotarians estimate they will spend $288,000 to send books valued at $20 million.
“It’s all volunteer,” Clemmons said. “Every dollar in the program goes into books or containers or shipping.”
Read more on Kingsley Holgate’s blog .