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NEWS RELEASE: Book Aid International returns to Sierra Leone to support library services

Library development charity Book Aid International is returning to supporting libraries in Sierra Leone, it announced today. The charity, which ships around a million books each year to libraries in sub-Saharan Africa, has sent a shipment of 38,000 brand new, carefully selected books to Freetown to help the country rebuild after the Ebola crisis.

Book Aid International withdrew from Sierra Leone in 2007 when the ceasing of UK government funding caused the charity to reduce its number of countries of operation and focus on East Africa. Since then Book Aid International has grown its income streams and is now once again in a position to support Sierra Leonean libraries with donations of brand new books for a range of libraries. The expansion into Sierra Leone is supported in part by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, who started supporting the charity in late 2014.

The books on this first shipment will go to the Sierra Leone Library Board which runs a network of 20 public libraries as well as supporting schools, hospitals, universities and prisons as well as to local NGOs supporting education in Sierra Leone. The books range from children’s phonics books and early readers to academic texts, medical and healthcare books and adult fiction.

The Ebola crisis has had a devastating effect on life in the West African country, but was declared over in late 2015. As the country begins to rebuild, Book Aid International hopes its support can help people get back to normal life and restart their education. Libraries in the country are generally well-used but many of the book collections are outdated.

Book Aid International Director Alison Hubert said: “We are delighted to be able to support library services in Sierra Leone at such a crucial point in the country’s redevelopment. Although recent events in Sierra Leone have been devastating, we have been very encouraged by the dynamism and commitment of the Sierra Leone Library Board to help people continue in their lifelong learning even in the most challenging of circumstances. There are many great outreach projects being implemented in Sierra Leone that help people to access books and reading resources and we hope our books can play a small part in helping Sierra Leone and its people to rebuild and to fulfil their own potential.”

Sallieu Touray, Chief Librarian at Sierra Leone Library Board said: “The intervention Book Aid International is making at this critical time with a shipment of 38,000 relevant books to Sierra Leone for distribution and reading promotion activities is a great boost to the education sector.  More users, pupils,students, and educators will be exposed to books (the most important resource in education) and this will enhance teaching and learning in Sierra Leone.”

Book Aid International works in 12 African countries and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to distribute books and learning resources and to train librarians. The charity partners with local library services and communities to provide safe, engaging spaces to access books and reading. Visit www.bookaid.org for more information.



For further information, pictures or comment please contact Jessica Faulkner, Head of Communications at Book Aid International.

e: jessica.faulkner@bookaid.org

t: 020 7326 5800

About Book Aid International

Book Aid International works in partnership with libraries in Africa, providing new books, resources and training to support an environment in which reading for pleasure, study and lifelong learning can flourish. The charity’s vision is of vibrant libraries that inspire readers and empower communities.

Book Aid International works in 12 African countries and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to distribute books and learning resources and to train librarians. The charity partners with local library services and communities to provide engaging spaces to access books and reading. Visit www.bookaid.org for more information.

About People’s Postcode Lottery

  • People’s Postcode Lottery is a charity lottery. Players play with their postcodes to win cash prizes while raising money for charities and good causes across Great Britain and globally
  • People’s Postcode Lottery is an External Lottery Manager and manages multiple society lotteries promoted by different causes supporting a range of charities. For details on which society lottery is running each week, visit www.postcodelottery.co.uk/society
  • Postcode Lottery Limited is regulated by the Gambling Commission under certificate nr 000-000829-N-102511-010 and 000-000829-R-102513-009. Registered office: Titchfield House, 69/85 Tabernacle Street, London, EC2A 4RR
  • People’s Postcode Lottery players support the following Trusts – Postcode African Trust, Postcode Animal Trust, Postcode Care Trust, Postcode Children Trust, Postcode Community Trust, Postcode Culture Trust, Postcode Dream Trust, Postcode Earth Trust, Postcode Global Trust, Postcode Green Trust, Postcode Heroes Trust, Postcode Local Trust, Postcode Planet Trust, Postcode Support Trust, People’s Postcode Trust and Postcode Sport Trust. These Trusts are funded entirely by players and support a variety of good causes. For further information on each charity, visit: www.postcodelottery.co.uk/charities
  • £10 for 10 draws paid monthly in advance with prizes every day. For further prize information visit: www.postcodelottery.co.uk/prizes
  • A minimum of 27.5% goes directly to charities and players have raised £118.8 Million for good causes across the country
  • Maximum amount a single ticket can win is 10% of the draw revenue to a maximum of £400,000
  • Players can sign up by Direct Debit, credit card or PayPal online at www.postcodelottery.co.uk, or by calling 0808 10-9-8-7-6-5.
  • Funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery to Book Aid International is made through the Postcode Culture Trust




Book Aid International returns to supporting Sierra Leone

We are delighted to announce that in 2016 we will once again begin supporting Sierra Leone’s libraries with brand new, carefully selected books. Our Director Alison Tweed reports on setting up new relationships and partnerships in Sierra Leone to help the country rebuild after the impact of the Ebola crisis. 

“I guess what I’d like to say is that people in Sierra Leone …want to send their kids to school; they want to live in peace; they want to have their basic rights of life just like everyone else. I think we all owe an obligation to support people who want to do that.” Ishmael Beah (author of A long way gone: memoirs of a boy soldier)

In December 2015 and in March 2016 I made two visits to Sierra Leone, to evaluate the state of libraries and of book availability in the country and see whether Book Aid International could once again play a part in supporting  public libraries, schools and higher education institutions. We have not worked in Sierra Leone since 2007, when the UK government ceased funding the organisation, which led to a strategic decision to focus on our work in East Africa.

Sierra Leone is emerging from the recent widely-reported and devastating Ebola crisis which resulted in nearly 4,000 deaths in 2014 and 2015 and resulting major disruptions in education (schools were closed for an entire academic year), commerce and many of the traditional ways of life, and creating many thousands of orphans and out-of-school children.


Given this I was delighted, on my arrival in Freetown, to find a flourishing national library service, managed by the Sierra Leone Library Board (SLLB) with 20 branches across the country.

Many of these libraries are new and they  all have lending, reference and even basic children’s sections. Much of the collection is old but well looked-after and clearly well-used. Some have computer centres which are internet-connected, some have computers but no internet.

Membership of all the libraries outside Freetown is free and books (mainly novels) can be borrowed from the lending library. SLLB has also done much to promote the service in imaginative ways: for example, all libraries have motorbikes on which the librarians visit local schools, community groups and in some cases even housebound individual users!

However, there is still much to be done to encourage wider use of libraries, especially by children. Having a supply of well-targeted, relevant and brand-new books from Book Aid International would certainly go some way to support the work SLLB is doing and I agreed we would support the Library Board with an initial donation of around 30,000 books in 2016.

“I grew up in Sierra Leone, in a small village where as a boy my imagination was sparked by the oral tradition of storytelling. At a very young age I learned the importance of telling stories – I saw that stories are the most potent way of seeing anything we encounter in our lives, and how we can deal with living.”
Ishmael Beah (author of A long way gone: memoirs of a boy soldier)

While in Freetown I also visited the University of Sierra Leone. Fourah Bay College, one of the three faculties, was the first institution of its kind in West Africa, established in 1827 as an Anglican missionary school and educating many prominent West Africans. It is now a constituent college of the university and has over 6,000 students. Sadly the library building, with its magnificent situation overlooking the city, has suffered hugely from lack of maintenance and a persistently leaky roof. I therefore agreed with the VC, Professor Thompson, that the university texts we would donate should be housed temporarily in the central public library for the students to access until such time as the college library was renovated.

Schools in Sierra Leone have been particularly hard hit by the impact of the Ebola crisis, with most closing for an entire year to limit infection within communities. This of course has a huge effect on children’s education as well as affecting their social interactions. However a large number of NGOs are running programmes to help children back to school, support girls in their quest for an education or provide basic teaching for the most deprived communities.

One such community-based organisation, Save the Needy, is working in 10 schools in Freetown and the country’s second city, Bo, and I visited some of these schools accompanied by the founder Mrs Violet Lenger Forfanah. The schools, situated mainly in Goderich district, have few, if any, resources; children lack not only textbooks but also reading books, exercise books and even pencils. Save the Needy is reaching out to these schools and raising funds for support and we agreed to work with them to provide collections of books and reading materials for their schools programme. It was clear that a donation of brand new, bright, and appealing books would make a real difference in these classrooms.

Freetown school
One of the schools supported by Save the Needy in Freetown

What was very clear to me on my visit, aside from the irrepressible optimism of most Sierra Leoneans that the future would be better, was the vital importance of education and access to information in rebuilding the country for the long term. If we at Book Aid International can support the librarians who are working in schools, universities and public libraries to make books available to their communities we will be proud that we are able to play a small role in these steps towards a better future.

As the librarian at Makeni City Library declared proudly: ‘We are bringing the libraries to the people, all over the country!’ And so they are.