Sunday, June 16, 2024

‘Books To Go’ Helping to Restock Bookshelves in Liberia


When Meaford resident David Blackburn heard of the desperate need for books in Liberia, he sprang into action.

In the ’50s and ’60s, Liberia was a shining light in Africa for education and literacy. Then two civil wars in quick succession ended all their aspirations and the country became destitute and bankrupt with an estimated 250,000 people dead in a country of only 5 million people. This misery finally came to an end in 2003 but sadly, there were no longer any books and no libraries. They had been stolen or destroyed in the wars and literacy rates went into free-fall.

Fortunately, although the country is filled with many dialects, Liberia’s official language is English and most people can speak it, so it is only natural to send books in English. About a year ago, David started collecting books. Of course there were rules: no sex, no violence, no sci-fi, no occult, self-help, and so on. Only books that will interest and benefit the Liberian people. He encountered many helpful and willing people along the way, especially the Beaver Valley Outreach who were receiving hundreds of books every week. Once a week he would sort through the pile searching for those which filled the bill. He also did a presentation to Friends of the Meaford Library who donated many children’s books from the Net Shed.

The books were piling up in his garden shed, and he knew that he had to begin the process of packaging ready for shipment, which is where a new set of challenges arose. He learned that he could not ship on any old pallet, it had to be an internationally approved pallet stamped with the appropriate mark. This he obtained from David McNabb pallet company in Hepworth, but then he needed cartons of a specific size which would nicely fit on the pallet. None were available locally, so a carton company in Mississauga provided cartons that nicely fit 24 to a pallet. The biggest challenge, though, was finding a shipping company willing and able to ship to Liberia. Most do not ship to Liberia at all, and of those who do, most will only accept full containers. Many, many phone calls later, he eventually found a small shipping and forwarding agency in Ajax who ship LFL to Liberia. LFL means less than full load. They open a container, and small shippers bring in their pallets and once the container is full, they close the door and ship it. This company, being small, was just the ticket. The people were friendly and helpful and more than willing to do the job.

Then came the last and final challenge; finding someone to shrink wrap and then strap the load together, so he started knocking on the doors of local businesses. Dan at Ontario Stone on Lombardy Street was more than willing to shrink wrap the load and Tyler at Knights Home Hardware agreed to strap it all together. At last, about 1,000 books were ready to hit the road.

They are now on their way, but is this the end of the story? Not exactly.

He is now working on his next pallet, this time to ship to ABCU (Africa Bible College University) in northern Liberia. This small university is really a teachers’ training college (teachers are also desperately needed in Liberia) and they need books, books, books. This time he is primarily looking for Christian material; Bibles, Christian lifestyle books, novels etc., although other good quality books will also be welcome.

Anyone willing to donate such books should get in touch with him at Stay tuned for the next saga of Books to Go.

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