Books to change lives

In 2019 we helped an estimated 19.5 million people around the world gain access to books, sending over 1.2 million books to readers in 26 countries.

This, our 2019 Annual Report, highlights the impact of our work over the past twelve months. We would like to express our gratitude to everyone who generously supported our work in 2019 and who, along with all of us at Book Aid International, believes in the power of books to change lives.

Alison Tweed, Chief Executive

Where books are needed

Looking back on 2019 I am acutely aware of a world where, all too often, the impact of the climate emergency on the developing world was overlaid by conflict and growing economic inequality. This saw whole populations displaced: some, as in Cameroon, sheltering in the forest, many others confronted by the realities of forced migration or facing the wreckage of homes and treasured institutions by forces beyond their control.

In all these situations Book Aid International has, with its local partners, been there to offer what access to books can provide: hope and the prospect of transformed lives. Only your support and the generosity of our book donors has made this possible, and for that we are all enormously grateful.

The Rt Hon Lord Paul Boateng, Chair

The books we sent

Children & primary

493,209 books

Leisure reading

225,568 books

Higher education

91,275 books

Vocational, technical & business

45,599 books


47,475 books

English language skills

20,190 books

Medicine & healthcare

141,270 books

Reference & Secondary

146,877 books

Where we reached readers


public & community libraries


prison libraries


primary & secondary schools


university libraries


refugee camps


medical libraries

Where we sent books

Cameroon 88,627
Eritrea 22,845
Ethiopia 48,490
Ghana 123,244
Kenya 131,426
Liberia 31,152
Malawi 51,989
Rwanda 73,787
Sierra Leone 60,005
Somaliland 23,043
Tanzania 75,933
The Gambia 44,078
Uganda 118,371
Zambia 105,247
Zimbabwe 157,720
Bhutan 4,070
India 7,789
Nepal 966
Antigua & Barbuda 1,564
Bahamas 2,423
Dominica 23,840
Greece 7,017
Italy 216
Middle east
Iraq 6,013
Jordan 500
Syria 1,065

Reading for a better future

Crime, illiteracy and teenage pregnancy are all too common in slum communities like Jamestown, one of the poorest districts in Accra, Ghana. Many children end up working on the streets to help their families earn money, rather than attend school.

We increased our support for street children and children living in slum communities in 2019 and provided a total of 10,093 books to our partner Street Children Empowerment Foundation, which they used in their central learning hub and distributed to 15 schools in Accra, Ghana, The books we sent reached children like fourteen-year-old Mary, who uses them to pursue her ambitions of becoming a lawyer.

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Innovating to reach more readers

Many communities in countries around the world lack a library or safe shared space where people can come together to access, read and enjoy books.

In September 2019, we launched our Voyager Container Library programme in Rwanda in partnership with NGO Grace Rwanda. We transformed a disused 40ft shipping container into a thriving community library in Gasave district, Kigali,  filling it with over 4,500 books, alongside a grant to buy locally-published books and training for librarians in running reading activities to engage the children using books.

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Creating school libraries

Very few schools in sub-Saharan Africa benefit from a well-stocked library. So, in 2019, we ran three programmes to support the creation of school library resources: Pioneer Book Boxes, Inspiring Readers and Explorer Libraries.

The Pioneer Book Box is especially suitable for situations where education is being delivered outside a formal school building. In Cameroon, thousands of pupils in conflict-affected regions are living in the forest with their parents and cannot attend school. The 30 Pioneer Book Boxes distributed in 2019 offer a simple solution to providing books so that these children can continue their education.

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Reaching displaced and conflict-affected people

In 2019 87 million people across the world were displaced through conflict, violence or disaster. Young people forced to flee their homes struggled to access any form of education.

Of the 33.900 books that we sent to refugees in 2019, 7,233 books went to support refugees in Southern Europe and 26,167 books were sent to refugees in Africa. We increased support for refugees in Greece, sending books to 17 organisations on the mainland and on Lesvos, sending a total of 7,017 carefully selected books to support their varied programmes.

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Our supporters

We are supported by thousands of individuals and organisations who donate books, funds and time so that we can reach readers around the world. We could not do this without the support of UK publishers, our dedicated volunteers and generous donors.

2019 saw another successful year in our long-running partnership with World Book Day and marked an incredible five years of support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

We would like to extend our warmest thanks to each and every one of our supporters.

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Income for 2019

All Book Aid International’s income is from voluntary donations; we receive no government grants or support. We are supported by individuals who donate through regular and one-off gifts, trusts and corporates that make single and multi-year grants, and schools and community groups that fundraise to support our work.

In 2019, our total income was £20,839,213 of which £2,280,258 was cash income; the in-kind value of the books donated to us by UK publishers was £18,558,955.

Expenditure for 2019

Total expenditure was £20,433,566, of which £2,204,100 was cash expenditure and £18,229,466 the in-kind value of the books we donated to partners around the world.


We maintain sufficient unrestricted cash reserves to ensure that we can deliver our planned commitments in the event of unforeseen financial challenges. The minimum level of reserves we must hold is set by our board of Trustees at a range between £500,000 and £550,000. We ended 2019 with £682,058 in free reserves, putting us in a strong position for going into 2020.

The future

We are facing unprecedented challenges: population boom, climate change, displaced communities, global health,  environmental protection, technological developments shaping our world as never before. The inevitable economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will make the need for books and reading even more important as the world begins to recover.

The key to meeting so many of the challenges that lie ahead is an educated and an informed global community. Books have a vital role to play in shaping future generations and should be available to all. With the help of all our supporters we will continue our work of sending a wide range of relevant and up-to-date books to our partners around the world. We are just one part of a wide community of people who believe in the power of books to enhance, improve and change lives.

"NOW it's time for Africa"

One of our most inspiring partners is the new Siilaanyo National Library in Hargeisa, Somaliland, a nation devastated by the long war with neighbouring Somalia.

The future of Somaliland is very bright and there is a lot of development going on. So, we say NOW it’s time for Africa. Everybody who supports Book Aid International – the books and the money which you are donating are helping so many. Please continue to support this organisation, which is making a big difference for our country and other countries in Africa!”

Ahmed, Founder, Siilaanyo National Library, Somaliland