Tag Archives: Community Ambassador

Making a difference together

Community Ambassador Andrew has tirelessly supported our work for nearly a decade, holding fundraisers, quizzes and all manner of events to help send more books and encourage more people to get involved.

Refugee Week got him thinking about when he first became aware of our work to support people forced from home – and to find out more about how his employer and fellow Book Aid International supporter Cambridge Assessment also supports refugees.



I began volunteering as a Community Ambassador for Book Aid International nearly ten years ago, inspired by the motto ‘Books change lives’. I’m delighted that the organisation I work for, Cambridge Assessment, is also a supporter. It’s a good fit: education also changes lives and the Cambridge Assessment group works all over the world to provide educational qualifications that give learners the confidence to demonstrate and fulfil their potential.

This week, during Refugee Week, I’ve been reflecting on when I first became aware of Book Aid International’s work in refugee camps in 2014, when the charity published a message from Kakuma, one of the largest refugee camps in the world. Kakuma, in Kenya, has become the long-term home of forced migrants from all over Africa.


Addisu taught English to new arrivals in the camp


Book Aid International was working with Addisu, a resident of Kakuma who taught English to new arrivals and the camp was in desperate need of books. Since then, refugee camps have featured high on Book Aid International’s agenda as places where the correlation between literacy and health, self-determination and economic well-being is especially plain to see.

The reflection inspired me to find out more about how our work here at Cambridge also supports refugees, so recently I spoke to Sarah Rogerson, a manager in our English-language division, which provides qualifications in English to millions of learners every year.


Adult learners in Kakuma
Adult learners in Kakuma Refugee Camp

She told me about a number of initiatives that our organisation runs to support refugees and displaced people, including English-language teaching for refugees via an online classroom, a curated online learning portal providing content to organisations that support refugees support for refugees who need access to higher education through a Massive Open Online Course made available free of charge over the internet and bursaries for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK and Ireland to enable them to take a language examination and gain a qualifications.

Our experience working with refugees and other people learning English has shown us that without access to books and other educational materials, learners studying for their Cambridge English Qualification would certainly struggle.

Books, language teaching, and support for access to education can make a huge practical difference in the lives of refugees. With so many goals in common, it’s not hard to see why Cambridge Assessment is a keen supporter of Book Aid International!


We’d like to thank Andrew and Cambridge Assessment for their ongoing support.

To find out more about becoming a volunteer or corporate supporter, take a look at the links below.

Guests at dinner

Sending more books through dinners

Supporters like Community Ambassador Jane Penson always amaze us with their passion to help us send more books to readers around the world. For the past three years, Jane has held a fundraising dinner for an increasingly large number of guests to mark World Book Day.

We caught up with her to find out about this year’s dinner – her biggest yet – and what keeps her doing it year on year.

Jane and Alan
Jane and her husband Alan

Can you tell us a bit about this year’s dinner?

The hall was bigger than before but with almost 60 guests it felt pleasantly full and the atmosphere was cheerful and full of chatter. The red table cloths and Book Aid International pictures on a huge screen made the hall very colourful.

There was a second hand book stall stocked with books brought by the attendees on the day. We sold 30 books in total for £5 each.

We had canapés before we sat down and a two-course buffet dinner including a delicious lamb tagine.

The evening always includes a literary quiz which tables complete over the course of the evening. It is very popular and encourages people to move around the room because they have to go looking for the next question sheet.


The hall
Jane used red tablecloths and a PowerPoint presentation of images to add colour to the hall


How do you go about preparing for such a multifaceted event?

I think about it on and off during the year. In March just after the last dinner, I book the hall for next year, debrief with people who came, send out thank yous and payments, count up the amount raised and so on.

Then the following January/February, I begin putting the quiz together, sending out invitations and collecting ticket payments, briefing the caterer, getting table cloths etc organised, doing table plans, hiring glasses.

You put in a lot of work. What motivates you to keep going?

I believe in the power of education and without books education is almost impossible. In my opinion the only way people, especially women, are going to change their lives and get out of poverty is by education. If I can help, I will.

Book stall
The evening included the chance to purchase second hand books

Tell us about your guests.

We had 57 guests in total and 12 of them were new. My brother in law came for the first time and brought some guests with him. Some returning attendees brought a few new people too. Two new guests also came from the local rotary club which I have recently joined.

So that means 75% were returnees. They come each year because they enjoy the meal, the quiz and the company – a lot of people are local and they know each other. I don’t do a raffle, which could be seen as a missed opportunity but I choose to let people donate extra money only if they wish to. There are certainly some people who appreciate that they have donated in the ticket price and that is all that is expected of them.

Tables of guests
57 guests attended this year’s dinner

How much did you raise in total?

£2,023 including the tax benefit of Gift Aid. That’s enough to send 1,011 brand new books – 17 per guest!

That’s amazing, thank you so much! Do you hope to continue the dinner in future years?

I plan to do it again in 2019 but I don’t intend to carry on growing it at the same rate. In 2016 we had 33 guests, in 2017 44 then then this year 57. I have been aiming for 60 so I am really pleased to have got to 57. I don’t want to go over 60 because it will become a different kind of event and it works really well as it is.


Huge thanks to Jane for her hard work and to all the guests who attended the dinner, what an amazing amount you raised!

If you’ve been inspired, take a look at the links below for more fundraising ideas and further information on becoming a Community Ambassador.


A recipe for success

After Community Ambassador Jane Penson’s first fundraising dinner proved a recipe for success, she decided to hold another one this year. Here Jane tells us how she’s built on last year’s event and what new opportunities are already coming out of it.

If you’re looking for some fundraising inspiration, read on!


Jane Penson


Books open doors, inspire hope and provide endless enjoyment as well as a path to the fulfilment of ambitions. Nobody should be denied them!

My second World Book Day dinner was bigger than the first – 45 people instead of 35. It was easier to sell tickets because about half of the people who came had been before and had enjoyed it. I also put an ad in the local email newsletter mentioning the focus on Zimbabwe which attracted a group of people who had lived there.


Guests enjoyed a dinner cooked by a Zimbabwean chef


Focussing the evening on one country worked really well

I chose Zimbabwe because it is the native country of the chef we had for the evening and because my husband has been there recently. This worked well and I will definitely repeat the focus on one country. It inspired Jenny Hayes’ (Book Aid International’s Communications Executive) talk about donkeys delivering books to inaccessible places in Zimbabwe which painted a memorable mental picture. We also had a non-competitive quiz on some basic facts about the country and discovered friends who knew a lot more about it than we realised.

Book box quiz

The book box quiz created a bit of intrigue with guests beforehand and a lot of fun on the night. Each table started with a box containing a book (ranging from The Tale of Tom Kitten to Jane Eyre) and four statements about it or its author, only one of which was true. The task was to spot the true statement and then to swap your box for one from another table and so on until you have seen them all. Out of seven possible correct answers two tables got six so there was a hastily arranged tie-breaker!

Tom Kitten and Jane EyreThe combination of the quiz and the buffet dinner meant that people got up and moved around more. I think this encouraged a more relaxed, informal atmosphere.

Play to your strengths

I choose dinners as my main method of promoting and fundraising for Book Aid International simply because it is something I know how to do. My local contacts enjoy a combination of reading, quizzes and eating and drinking with friends so it is not a hard sell! I hope that eventually these annual dinners where people are hearing, thinking and talking about the work of Book Aid International will have spin-offs. The local librarian has suggested having a Book Aid International display in the library for a week and we might organise an event there at the same time. Who knows what else may follow?

The next event

Now that there are a total of 56 people who have been to one or both dinners, I hope to get 60 people involved next March. I will need to delegate a few more tasks but there is plenty of goodwill now.

Here’s the confession. I had not given any thought to the amount of clearing up – collapsing tables, putting hired glasses in boxes, taking down posters and so on. But I had also totally underestimated my guests’ willingness to help. Two blinks and the job was done. Thanks guys!


Thanks to Jane and her guests, the dinner raised £1306! That’s enough to send 653 brand new books to a library that might otherwise have empty shelves.


Jane’s next World Book Day Dinner will be on Saturday 3rd March 2018. If you are interested in attending, please get in touch here (please note, the event will be in Buckinghamshire, UK).

Shelves of books

Taking on a challenge to share the joy of reading

In the run up to World Book Day, Girl Guides and Brownies in Bethnal Green are taking on a reading challenge to help us send more books to schools and libraries where books are scarce.

Book Aid International Community Ambassador Emily has arranged the home grown reading challenge for the Guide and Brownie units in her local area. We caught up with Emily to find out more:


Emily Reddon


As a Brownie and Guide leader, I get to volunteer each week with the Bethnal Green Brownies and spend time with some amazing girls who are clever, passionate, curious and always entertaining.

Our Brownies (aged 7-10) know what they like and one thing they love is reading. The girls will often bring in stories or poems they’ve written and ask to read them aloud to the others. When you put pen and paper in front of them, nine times out of ten you’ll get a story. And the Guides (aged 10 – 14) are interested in issues that affect our society and other young people, so they were keen to learn more about literacy and raise money for Book Aid International.

Reading books is a big part of our Brownies’ and Guides’ lives, as it is for so many children and adults. To encourage them to read for fun, but also to understand the impact books can have on people’s lives, we are raising money for Book Aid International and Book Trust by running the first ever Bethnal Green Brownies & Guides Reading Challenge!




Between now and World Book Day, we will be dedicating the first five minutes of every meeting to updating our list of books that the Brownies and Guides have read.  Our ‘Read-o-Meter’ is decorated with drawings of the girls’ favourite book characters and is slowly working its way up to our collective target of 100 books. With 20 young people taking part, I have a feeling we’ll smash it! It’s a cooperative challenge, with no winners and losers, where it doesn’t matter what you’re reading, it just matters that you are! So far, Dork Diaries, Jacqueline Wilson, David Walliams and Roald Dahl are big favourites on the board.

We all agree that books are a big and important part of all of our lives, so the young people were excited about the idea of their own reading supporting charities they can get behind. We have pledged as a unit to make a donation for each book they read and the girls who feel particularly passionately are also collecting pledges from others. The girls have raised £10 in the first week, but with a month to go and the excitement for World Book Day ramping up, we’re looking forward to seeing that go up and up!


Huge thanks to Emily and the Guides and Brownies of Bethnal Green for their World Book Day fundraising efforts! It costs just £2 to send a book so every pound raised really will make a difference. We wish them the best of luck with reaching their target and hope they discover some fantastic new authors and books in the process.

To find out more about our Community Ambassador scheme or ways you can support us on World Book Day, take a look at the links below.