by Dennis Dalman
Africans are starving for books.
That’s the rallying cry of “Books for Africa.” The organization has collected many thousands of books to donate, but it is awaiting funding to deliver the books from the United States to Africa via cargo ship.
Although most of the books shipped are written in English, many Africans speak and read English, and many more learn English, thanks partly to the many books sent through the Books for Africa program.
Sartell residents Rosemond and Isaac Owens are two of the many organizers who are sponsoring the third local fundraiser for Books for Africa. Originally from Ghana in West Africa, the Owenses are the founders of Kalahari Foods, which promotes events that provide Ghanaian food along with the nurturing of cross-cultural understanding.
The Owenses will cook the benefit dinner for the Books for Africa fundraising event that will take place at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 23 at the First Presbyterian Church in St. Cloud, located at 373 4th Ave. S. near the St. Cloud State University campus. The dinner will feature Jollof rice (a spicy rice blend with vegetables), beans, fried plantains and peanut soup.
All proceeds will go to Books for Africa.
Besides the genuine Ghana food feast, there will be guest speakers. They will include Tom Warth, Books for Africa founder. Members of the board of Books for Africa will also share insights into their long-time mission of providing students, teachers and leaders in Africa with a constant supply of donated books, used and new.
Another organizer, Eunice Adjei of St. Cloud, knows first-hand about the hunger for books. Adjei, who earned a master’s degree in social responsibility from St. Cloud State University, works for various non-profit agencies in social work and is a member of the SCSU Alumni Board.
Adjei, who also grew up in Ghana, studied psychology as an undergraduate at Accra University. She vividly remembers how she and fellow students had to rely on photocopied pages from books because they had no actual books from which to study. Professors would bring in a thick stack of photocopied pages from a textbook, then the students would laboriously photocopy those.
“We were photocopying photocopies all the time,” Adjei said.
Then one day, Books for Africa came to the rescue, and Adjei found herself standing and waiting in a long, long line with many others eager to get their hands on that rarity of rarities – an actual book.
“Oh, my gosh!” said Adjei, remembering the moment she first held a psychology textbook. “It was so great. It was such a relief – to actually own and touch that book!”
Books for Africa organizers note African children who receive books or have access to them express the same kind of amazed sense of ownership and empowerment, as if a miracle had happened right before their eyes. They tend to fall in love with words and reading if they can see and touch actual books.
Currently, there are tons and tons of donated books stored in warehouses in Minneapolis, Chicago and Atlanta, ready to be shipped to Africa. All of the current books shipped will go to Ghana, although other shipments can and do go to other African countries.
Since 1988, when Books for Africa was founded, the organization has shipped 26 million high-quality text and library books to 46 countries in Africa. It costs $10,300 to send a sea container to most major sea ports in Africa. Books for Africa has earned a top rating of four stars for Charity Navigator for the fourth consecutive year.
To register for the event, contact Eunice Adjei at 320-310-2246 or Rosemond Owens at 259-8729. Registration is important as the Owenses need to know how much food to make.