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A year to remember

As the year draws to a close, our Chief Executive Alison Tweed reflects on the year that was and on what 2024 might hold. 

2023 has been a challenging year for so many people around the world: whether coping with the cost-of-living crisis, catching up with missed education post Covid, or living with conflict.  

In all these very challenging situations books provide escape, opportunity, humanity, a connection to all that is good in life. We hear from our partners every day what an extraordinary difference a book can make to a child, a medical patient, a prisoner, a refugee. Wherever we go, we see the power of books to improve and change lives. 

Last year, with your support, we were able to send over 1,235,950 brand-new books, carefully selected to meet our partners’ needs, to 22 countries. We are very proud of that achievement, but the real work starts with our amazing partners around the world, who are bringing books to life and changing lives. 

Some moments really stand out for me this year:

Sending over 25,000 books to our partner PEN International in Ukraine, to help them support libraries impacted by the ongoing war.

The determination of Mustafe – who packed books onto the backs of camels to get them to pastoral communities in Somaliland – despite the devastating effects of the drought which gripped the Horn of Africa all year.

Yvonne’s commitment to share the power of books with children in some of Liberia’s toughest communities. She used the books we sent to open more community libraries and Explorer Libraries in schools.

We need Liberians to be readers so they can make informed decisions that improve their lives and their communities.  And this is where Book Aid International comes in, because they give us brand-new books and we are able to select the type of books we need. This means more children in Liberia can have warm and welcoming places to read, surrounded by books from Book Aid International. 

Yvonne Weah in Liberia
Librarian in Book Aid International project

Ensuring that Yvonne, Mustafe and thousands like them have the brand-new, high-quality books they need is our mission. But without our friends and supporters here in the UK, we could not provide a single book.  

We rely on the generosity of individuals, trusts and companies who donate the £2 we need to send each book. We value the support of authors who help us raise awareness of the need for books in some of the world’s most challenging places – Ben Okri, Elif Shafak, Mariella Frostrup and Kit de Waal, among others. And of course, we are hugely fortunate to have the support of Her Majesty the Queen. Her Majesty’s visit to our warehouse in Camberwell in February, and her inspirational words, were one of the true highlights of our year. 

And now as we come to the end of this year, we look to 2024 – and beyond – and to our plans to provide books for even more of the people who need them most. By 2030, through our Generation Reader campaign, we aim to provide over 1.5 million books to 10 million young readers across Africa to help them realise their ambitions – and their dreams.  

With your support, next year and in the years to come, we’ll be there providing the books that readers need. Thank you for everything you gave in 2023, and I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together in 2024.  

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