Rotary club books a sustainable worldwide reading initiative
Rotarian Steve Frantzich (left) and Morgan Muthamia, director of Book Aid for Africa, check a shipment bound for Kenya at the B.I.G. warehouse in Annapolis, Maryland, USA.
In 1995, the Rotary Club of Parole (Annapolis), Maryland, USA, provided a South African Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar with books to help promote literacy in South Africa. Over the next 12 years, the club built that one shipment into Books for International Goodwill (B.I.G.), a massive literacy project that’s put almost 2.5 million used books into the hands of people needing educational and recreational reading material.
About 2,000 volumes are donated to the project each week. Nearly all shipments — 20,000-25,000 books each — are sent to Rotary clubs around the world, primarily in Africa, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. The clubs then allocate them to schools and libraries.
Steve Frantzich, a member of the Parole (Annapolis) club and director of B.I.G., has overseen distribution in the Czech Republic, Kenya, and Malawi. He believes the books have an “unlocking effect” that opens up new educational opportunities for students at all levels.
“It’s such a wonderful experience to see this project come full circle and have it reach students that need these tools for prosperity,” he says.
B.I.G. is also working with Books for Soldiers to provide reading material to U.S. military personnel stationed in the Middle East.
With a volunteer base of more than 50 non-Rotary organizations across Annapolis, B.I.G. keeps overhead low and productivity high. Every second and fourth Saturday of each month, at least three dozen volunteers work feverishly for four hours in a 7,000-square-foot warehouse to get thousands of books sorted, sealed with a Rotary emblem, boxed, and put on delivery trucks.
“Volunteering has to have a hands-on element for it to grow and succeed,” says Frantzich. “This is why we have been so successful for 12 years and why we will continue to be for years to come.”
This article orginally appeared in the October 2007 issue of Rotary World