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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ending the 'Book Famine' in Africa (interview)

image courtesy Books For Africa
Rachel Brady is the project manager of Books For Africa, the largest shipper of donated textbooks and library books to the African continent. Many people in industrialized nations take educational resources for granted, but children in Africa cherish books.

Most African children have never owned a book of their own. In many classrooms, 10-20 students share one textbook. Books For Africa supplies books to rural school libraries, orphanages, adult literacy programs, and community resource centers. The goal is to end the book famine in Africa. If you’re inspired to make a donation (either of books or money for shipping), visit

As an undergraduate, you traveled to Rwanda.  How did that trip impact you?

I connected with many students around my age who were working hard to go to university, and who had amazing goals and dreams for their futures. 

I learned that Rwanda is rising.  I became inspired to get involved in that movement—to find ways to contribute to initiatives that are ensuring that the next generation of Africa’s leaders have the opportunity to thrive. 

Rwanda is a beautiful country—both in landscape and in people—and I was inspired by the sense of resilience, hope, and warmth that permeates the culture.

photo courtesy Rachel Brady

What’s your favorite part of your job?

I get the privilege of working with fantastic people and organizations all around Africa who send books to specific communities. 

Each project BFA supports is different—we work with fabulous organizations and institutions to help them fulfill the literacy goals they’ve established in the
community in which they work. 

It’s a real honor to learn about what inspires these folks to get in touch with BFA, and to collaborate with a multitude of different stakeholders to get books into communities throughout the continent. 

How are communities affected by receiving donated books?

Books For Africa is a large-scale provider, meaning that we send 22,000 books at a time.  So, when a container of books arrives in a community, it’s a huge event. 

22,000 books is enough to transform the learning landscape of students in an entire community—several schools get stocked with new libraries, a community center has the opportunity to create a library and learning hub, or a new university gains textbooks they needs to support new areas of study. 

It’s remarkable to, in many cases, deliver books to students who have never before held a book. 

photo courtesy Rachel Brady

What does “mindful teaching” mean to you?

In my work at BFA, I’ve been witness to many amazing African teachers who work so hard to create meaningful and quality learning environments for their students.  So, in the context of my work, mindful teachers are those who are constantly innovating—finding resources and opportunities to shape their schools in ways that help teachers and children and pedagogy change and grow. 

Do you have a mindfulness practice, and if so, how does it help you with your work?

My mindfulness practice involves surrounding myself with art—good music on the radio, participation in theatre, attending great concerts.  In terms of finding my work-life balance & centering my mind and my heart, art is my grounding point. 

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