Tag Archives: Alison Tweed

Our work during Covid-19

At Book Aid International we have continued to operate throughout the lockdown period, with the majority of staff working from home, staying connected with our partners and supporters and ensuring that books sent before lockdown arrive safely at their destination.

Our warehouse, however, closed on 23rd March for a number of weeks but following changes to government guidelines has since reopened.

We are delighted to be back picking, packing and shipping books again and since reopening have so far sent shipments to our partners in Zimbabwe, Ghana, Uganda and Cameroon – with many more to come!

We are following government social distancing and health and safety guidelines, and the safety of our staff is at the forefront of all our plans. If you would like more information on how we’re operating during this time, please see our frequently asked questions below.

We are working very hard to ensure that as far as possible all our library and NGO partners receive the books they need this year as children across Africa get back to school, as universities and libraries re-open and as we all adjust to life post Covid-19.

We are very grateful for the continued support of our publisher donors who have already donated thousands of brilliant books since our return. Should you be able to support us with books or a financial donation, please do get in touch.

Please do continue to follow us and to support us in whatever way you can. It costs just £2 to send another book to a child, a student, a refugee, a prisoner, or to someone desperate to read and with no books of their own.

We are committed to making long-term change through books and everything we do contributes to building a safer, more informed post Covid-19 world.

Stay safe and thank you for supporting Book Aid International.

Alison Tweed, 

Chief Executive

Updated 28.09.2020.


Covid-19 FAQ

How are you protecting your staff? 

We are following, as a minimum, government guidelines regarding the safety of our staff and we are fortunate that all our office staff are able to work from home. For our warehouse team who are returning to work, we have implemented safe working procedures including social distancing, stringent and frequent cleaning and hygiene routines, staggered shifts and a smaller-than-usual team.

How is your work affected?

The temporary closure of the warehouse and resuming operations with a smaller team means the total number of books we will send this year may be lower than we originally planned for 2020. Many of our library and school library projects are also temporarily on hold until schools re-open and our implementing partners in Africa are ready to begin work again.

As shipping has continued to operate throughout the period we do not anticipate a significant impact on our work operationally, although we could experience delays in delivering books, particularly to landlocked countries in Africa. We are monitoring the situation very closely and will adjust our plans accordingly.

As we are funded entirely through voluntary donations we must also anticipate some impact on our income from the expected economic downturn. Any downturn in our funding will affect the number of books we are able to send. We would like to thank all our supporters for remaining with us through this challenging period.

How are your partners being affected by COVID-19? 

Many of our partners have informed us that they are continuing to operate but in a reduced capacity. The majority of schools and libraries have been temporarily closed to prevent the spread of Covid-19, so our partners are working very hard to prepare for the time when they can re-open. In the meantime, many are adopting innovative new ways to reach their readers. Read about how our partners in Liberia are navigating the crisis and finding new ways to get books to those hardest to reach.

Why send books if all the libraries are closed? 

We always check with partners ahead of any shipment that they are able to receive and distribute the books we are sending. Some library services are open now and these partners will be prioritised in our plans.

Additionally, we send all our books by sea freight, which can take up to 4 months to arrive with our partners. It is important that we send books now so that they are with our partners when schools and libraries re-open.

Can I donate books?

If you represent a publisher, bookseller, author or other members of the book trade and have new books to donate (we cannot, unfortunately, accept second-hand books) please get in touch with Harry Boughton, our Head of Operations.

Can I donate to support your work?

Yes, please! Every £2 helps us send another book. Find out more about how to donate.

Thank you for your support. if you have any further questions please get in touch.

Solomon reading outside

A message from our Chief Executive, Alison Tweed

Dear friends,

As we face the unprecedented challenge of coronavirus and its impact on our lives, we are all reassessing what is most important to us and learning to go about our daily business differently. We are working at home, ordering our shopping online, enjoying the pleasure of a daily walk. And for many, with more time on our hands, we are rediscovering the pleasure of books and reading.

With bookshops shut (at the time of writing) we are turning to our shelves, discovering old favourites and re-reading them, but also books we have tucked away on our bulging shelves and half-forgotten. The pleasure of just having time to read is one of the huge compensations of this extraordinary period.

At times like this our thoughts also turn to our friends and colleagues around the world and the billions of people also suffering the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. My thoughts are not only with our library partners who have, for safety reasons, shut their doors to the public for the time being, but also to the hundreds of millions of children not able to go to school. So many of them, at home with their families, will not have the comfort of a book at home, will not be able to go to their local community library, will miss out on their education.

Like me, I am sure you find yourself saying ‘when this is all over I’ll…’ Because we know life will return to normal at some point. And when it does we at Book Aid International will redouble our work to take the joy of books and reading to the schools and libraries and communities we support. We will celebrate together and as we do, we will remember the joy that books brought us when so much else was denied us.

At Book Aid International we are committed to long-term change through books, books that educate and entertain; books that improve-and change-lives. So thank you so much for your ongoing support. Together we can do something wonderful and the comfort and joy of books is needed now more than ever.

Warmest wishes,

Alison Tweed,
Chief Executive


Pupils at Korieama Primary School

2017 year in review: 20 countries in just twelve months

As 2017 draws to a close, we are looking back over the last twelve months and forward to 2018. In this blog, our Chief Executive Alison Tweed reflects on the highlights from 2017 and gives us a preview of the year ahead.

This has been a year of change for our team at Book Aid International as we focused on putting our Vision 2020: Where Books Change Lives strategy into action. Launched in March, our new strategy commits us to ensuring that the books we send reach those who face the greatest barriers to accessing books.


Boys reading
Two friends share a book at Battir Library in the West Bank


To begin making that vision a reality, we focused on establishing partnerships in new countries where people lack the books they need, as well as continuing to support all our more longstanding library and education partnerships.

The books we provided reached people in some of the most difficult to reach places in the world who are determined to keep reading in the face of instability and uncertainty about the future. We sent books to universities in Somalia, to transit camps in Greece, to schools for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and to the world’s youngest nation which continues to be gripped by conflict, South Sudan.


Pacifique leads a reading activity
Taking part in a reading activity at Esperance Community Centre’s library in Rwanda


We also doubled the number of books provided to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, sent books to the Caribbean island of Antigua to support people displaced from Barbuda and Dominica by Hurricane Irma and began sending books to Liberia, Rwanda, Ghana and The Gambia.

Inspiring Readers, Book Havens and more

In March of this year our flagship Inspiring Readers programme won the prestigious 2017 London Book Fair International Excellence Award in the category of Educational Initiatives. It was a fantastic boost for the programme which aims to bring books into the classrooms of 250,000 African primary school pupils by 2020.


Moi Primary readers
Pupils enjoy reading in class at Inspiring Readers school Moi Primary in Kenya


In 2017, we continued to expand the programme and today almost 89,000 pupils in Kenya, Cameroon and Malawi have books in their classrooms and trained teachers to help them discover how reading supports their learning.

Highlights of the year for me also included:


  • Helping reading and learning to flourish in Nairobi’s Mathare slum through our Book Havens project


Young reader Jason shows us his favourite place to read in his new Book Haven


  • Giving secondary school pupils in Zambia new resources to study and succeed in their exams by creating Study Hubs


Secondary school pupils using their study hub in Zambia
Secondary school pupils using books in their Study Hub at Choma Library



The people we reached

When I look back on 2017, more than anything I will remember the people who told us how the books we send are helping them to change their own lives.

I was particularly inspired by the words of 17 year old Lydia in Uganda who reminds us how determined people around the world are to read:

My dad always says ‘You shouldn’t go there, collecting books from there. Those books don’t help you.’ He doesn’t know how they help me. But my mum knows. She helps me go out to the library and get the books. I have already read all the fiction in the library – there are not enough now! We need more so we can keep learning. For me, I am going to be a writer, so I must keep reading!

[read more]

Lydia is just one of the estimated 24 million people who read the books we provide in any one year. We could not reach a single one of those readers without the new books that are so generously donated by publishers, the funds we receive from individuals, trusts and companies and the hard work of our volunteers. We would like to extend a very warm thank you to all of our supporters for all that you do.

Looking forward to 2018

In 2017 we sent over 930,000 books to a wide range of new and established partners.

In 2018 we are aiming to send up to 1.2 million books and we are expanding our warehouse operations in Camberwell to help us do just that.


Loading a shipment
Loading a shipment at our warehouse in London


We will also continue to implement our Inspiring Readers, Book Havens and Study Hub projects and we are currently exploring the next steps for our work providing e-books alongside print books for children.

We are very much looking forward to a year of new partnerships and new opportunities to reach those who need books most and we hope that you will join us as we continue to work toward a world where everyone has access to books that will enrich, improve and change their lives.