Books for Africa Sorts, Packs and Helps Educate Africans

I boarded a bus early this morning after a reviving pep talk from CBS sports guy James JB Brown, quarterback Dan Marino and Pepper Schwartz. The three stood before 700 or so volunteers at the Life@50+ National Event in Atlanta to encourage them on as they undertook many different projects for the morning. I was with the group who would pack books at Books for Africa, in Smyrna, GA, a short drive from the city.

We arrived at a warehouse packed to the roof with pallets of books. These were ready to fill a 40′ container and be shipped to Ghana and other African countries. But not until they were requested. Books for Africa staff said that Africans request types of books for certain age groups, and they fill their order with the pallets of donated books. Many are textbooks, but they pretty much get everything.

Our gang of about 70 yellow-shirt clad volunteers got the lowdown and then set to work. The books, which were mostly textbooks, were dumped into large 6’x6′ cardboard bins. We used grey plastic carts and filled them up with Algebra, communications, nursing or hundreds of different elementary school readers, and began making piles of the heavy books. I hadn’t thought about much a biology text book weighs until I lifted about 45 of them today!

Ghana is the African country that gets the most books. That’s because they have a very big warehouse in Accra where all of the books can be unloaded and distributed. Often graft, bribes and other problems ensue once the deliveries are made.

Our group was mostly African American women, all appropriately over 50, and we had fun. We took turns being the one who had to climb into the corrogated bin to get the books too low to reach from outside. I teased a pack of women who all sat around in a semicircle while the rest of us all worked. We packed a whole pallet with just math and statistics textbooks. Labeled and ready it would return to the warehouse, be shrink wrapped, and then wait for someone to ask for math books.