Tag Archives: Practical Tools Initiative

Teaching the nurses of tomorrow

Sierra Leone’s eleven-year civil war severely affected the country’s healthcare. Much infrastructure was destroyed and many staff fled for their lives. Ebola then claimed the lives of 10% of the country’s healthcare workers.

Institutions like Nixon Memorial Hospital in eastern Sierra Leone and its nursing school were left struggling and threatened with closure. Yet the school once produced over 75% of nurses for the entire eastern region of the country – an area covering over 15,000 square kilometres with a population of over 1.5 million people.

Tutors like Solomon are passionate about raising up the next generation of healthcare professionals in Sierra Leone and is using books you help to send to support his vital work.


Our challenge was shortage of books. You cannot continue with archaic books that have been written 10 or 15 years ago – other developments have been found.

But I am very happy – last year Practical Tools Initiative (PTI) gave us books from Book Aid International. Now we have up-to-date books – books on anatomy and physiology, books on surgery, midwifery, paediatrics, microbiology. You name them, we have them! Marvellous books. And we are really making good use of them.

Solomon reading
Solomon is using Mims’ Medical Microbiology to help him prepare his lectures

For the past week I have been reading the Mims’ Medical Microbiology which is my specialty. I love this book so much because it is up to date. It has really helped me to make my notes and to impart knowledge onto the students.

The books have given us a positive change.

They have opened the way for research. Now, if the students were to do research on a topic or any tropical disease, any operation or nursing care, then they can go in there [to the library] and study.


Reading in the library
Student pass rates have increased thanks to the donated books


Since we have started using these books, our results have really improved. Two years ago, some of our students did not achieve the minimum overall pass mark.

But the group last year, because of the existence of this library and the Book Aid International books all 92 students passed their state final examinations.

And I am also hoping that come this November, the next group of students will also pass with flying colours.


Midwifery students
Solomon hopes that this year’s students will pass with flying colours


We are living in one the poorest [districts] in the country. There are many people living in the rural areas who have problems with disease, more than people who are living in urban areas. Yet urban areas are served with so many doctors and nurses whereas rural areas have few. Like in this hospital, we only have one doctor who works around the clock.

So the only way to help us is books.

Without books, you cannot learn. And if you don’t learn, you cannot help your community.


The books in the library are also used by medical staff in the adjoining Nixon Memorial Hospital


These books aren’t only for tutors and students, they are for everybody. The healthcare workers in the hospital that this school is attached to are using them too. Even the people who are training in Freetown, we tell them we have lots of books. So if they don’t have books, about particular surgery, they will come here and it will be an immense help for them.


On the ward
Donated books are enabling the nursing school to apply for accreditation to run a higher level nursing course


In the future, we are planning to run the higher course of state registered nursing and midwifery here. The books are one of the things that will allow us to do this – staff and students having access to a range of up-to-date information is one of the criteria that we have to meet to run a higher course.

We are very very thankful to Practical Tools Initiative for opening this link between us and Book Aid International so that more books will be brought to us, and hopefully we are going to do the higher course shortly.


We would like to thank our partner Practical Tools Initiative who ensure the books you help to send reach the healthcare professionals, hospitals and medical training institutions that need them most.

Midwife and baby

Sending books and saving lives

Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Healthcare practitioners like Dr Joan Shepherd and her team at the National School of Midwifery in Freetown are working hard to change that.

Here Dr Joan explains how books you help to send are educating midwives, saving mothers and giving new-borns a healthy start to life.

Dr Joan
Dr Joan uses books you help to send to teach midwives about safe labour practises

Our country has suffered many crises like the civil war, Ebola outbreak and a devastating mudslide. These events killed thousands – including many healthcare workers – and damaged the healthcare infrastructure.

Today, we have the highest maternal mortality rate in the world – 1,165 mothers die per 100,000 births. We are not proud of that statistic but we are working hard to change it.

Midwifery students
Having access to books enables student and professional midwives to stay up-to-date

Institutions like ours are training midwives who are saving pregnant women and caring for new mothers and newborn babies. Training midwives about safe labour will help reduce the maternal mortality rate. And midwives imparting knowledge to new mothers will help reduce the chances of their new babies becoming ill.

Our weapon is books. When a midwife uses books and puts the knowledge into practice, it’s life-saving.

If a midwife is in difficulties – let’s say they have a very difficult delivery – they consult the books.

When we are armed with knowledge, we are powerful. When dealing with childbirth, we don’t want women or babies to die. We need to have the knowledge and the skills to save lives.

Reading in the library
Books you help to send enable midwives and students prepare well for any challenges they may face

That’s why we were so excited when we received brand new medical books. Our midwives now have access to modern textbooks featuring new developments in treatments to help them prepare to face any challenges on the ward.

These books have strengthened our midwifery school and many more institutions like ours which have also received books from Book Aid International.

The end beneficiaries are the pregnant women, new mothers and newborns receiving safe care.

We are not there yet, in terms of reducing the maternal and infant mortality rates, but we are working on it – and we always need more books! Medical books are constantly being updated with the latest developments so they are always needed.

I’d like to say a big thank you to you and all those who support Book Aid International.

Your donations are invaluable – they impact positively on the lives of those who use the books and we promise that we will make good use of them.


We would like to thank our partner Practical Tools Initiative who ensure the books you help to send reach the healthcare professionals, hospitals and medical training institutions that need them most.

Pupils and books

Action for education in Sierra Leone

For the past two years, we’ve been supplying books which support our partners’ work in Sierra Leone rebuilding the country following over a decade of war and the Ebola crisis. The education system is still recovering from the civil war which destroyed over 1,000 primary schools and forced 67% of school age children out of school. The Ebola outbreak further weakened the system and schools closed for an academic year.

One of our partners, Practical Tools Initiative (PTI), supports the rehabilitation of deprived post-war communities in Africa with tools, materials for schools and mobility aids for disabled people. PTI’s Western Area Coordinator in Sierra Leone, Mamson Musa, gave us an update on the difference that the books you have helped to send are making.


Bassa Town Primary
Many school classrooms in Sierra Leone have few resources


One of the major challenges in post-war Sierra Leone is reviving the education system and improving literacy and numeracy. The effect of the ten-year civil war is vivid on the country’s education standards – public signs and advertisements are key indicators. Before the war, it was impossible to see poorly written adverts. Today they are very common.

Since the start of our partnership with Book Aid International, we have become a leading independent provider of educational support services in Sierra Leone.

Thanks to the new books supplied by Book Aid International, we have been able to intervene in critical cases where educational institutions have been threatened with closure due to lack of resources.


Nixon Memorial Hospital book donation
Students at Nixon Memorial Hospital’s nursing school are now achieving brilliant results thanks to the books you help to send


Nixon Memorial Hospital’s nursing school was desperate. Only two years ago, it was going to be closed for lack of resources. Book Aid International supplied 1,000 brand new text books. We also delivered computers and medical equipment. Today, it is a key performer in the provision of education for nurses and community healthcare workers in Sierra Leone! Last year, the nursing school had a 100% pass rate. This has not happened since 1990.


Akibo Betts School Sierra Leone
Akibo Betts Municipal School is one of 20 under performing schools which received books to help pupils make the most of their educations


In 2017, the secondary school books we received from Book Aid International enabled us to supply much needed reading resources to 20 underperforming community schools in the west of Sierra Leone, like Akibo Betts Municipal School in Freetown. The school was established in the early 1960s and before the civil war was one of the leading community schools in Freetown. It fell into disrepair after the war and now caters for some of the most impoverished communities in the city. This and each of the other 19 schools received 1,000 books.


Nixon Memorial Hospital and these 20 community schools are just some of the places in Sierra Leone where readers now have the resources they need to read, learn and reach their full potential thanks to the books you help to send.

Check back for more updates from our partners in Sierra Leone. In the meantime, take a look at the links below to find out more about our work to support readers in Sierra Leone.


Nixon Memorial Hospital students

New life for Nixon Memorial Hospital

In 2016, with the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we began sending books to Sierra Leone to support the country as it rebuilds after the devastating Ebola crisis which killed nearly 4,000 people between 2014 and 2016.

Sierra Leone’s health infrastructure was weak before the epidemic. It was significantly weakened by a ten year civil war from 1991 to 2002 and Ebola has weakened it further. Many medical professionals lost their lives to the disease.

To aid the country’s recovery, we have had a particular focus on sending medical books to practising professionals and medical students. 6,000 of those books were received by Practical Tools Initiative (PTI), a charity which specialises in supporting post-conflict communities. In this blog, PTI explains how the books we provide are helping a major medical nursing college train the nurses of tomorrow.

PTI logo

In April 2016 we began a partnership with Book Aid International with the aim of delivering high-quality textbooks to extremely deprived post-war and post-Ebola health and educational institutions and prisons in Sierra Leone. Within weeks of signing the partnership agreement, we received the first consignment of over 6,000 books. 1,000 of those books reached the Nixon Memorial Hospital in Segbwema, Eastern Sierra Leone.


Nixon Memorial Hospital
The books were presented to the hospital management at a special ceremony


The hospital has a fascinating history. In the 1930s a British missionary and his wife were stationed at Segbwema, Eastern Sierra Leone. Word spread that the minister’s wife was a nurse. People started to come to their house for help and their veranda became a clinic.

It was around 1950 when Alderman John Nixon, previously Lord Mayor of Newcastle, approached the officers of the Methodist Missionary Society to offer to donate money for medical services to a needy place in the developing world in memory of his wife who had recently died. The need to significantly develop the hospital in Segbwema was suggested and a large amount of money was provided and that’s how the highly commended nursing school also came into being.

“The hospital was widely acclaimed throughout Sierra Leone, but then in 1990 came the devastation and pointless destruction of the 10 years of war. There was massive destruction and the staff had to flee for their lives into the bush.”

Ever since the war, the hospital has been struggling. It has been severely underfunded, even though the nursing school produces over 75% of nurses for the entire eastern region of the country.

In 2015 the government told the hospital management that unless they improved their library with modern books and computers, the nursing school would be closed. This was a very serious threat and the hospital management had no means of replenishing the nursing school’s library with contemporary books and computers. We have been working with the hospital for just over a year. It was at this point that we approached Book Aid International.

We made no promise to the hospital committee until the books and computers were at our centre in Kenema. Book Aid International provided the books and we sourced the computers from other places.

Nixon Memorial Hospital
Students with their new learning resources

A few weeks after delivering the 1,000 textbooks, five computers and medical equipment, we sent out four UK medical volunteers (three nurses and one IT expert) to provide teaching support to the nursing school and help set-up their IT system and medical equipment.

The textbook support from Book Aid International was a reprieve for the nursing school, and without doubt, the hospital itself. All 260 students training to be nurses will no doubt benefit from them!


We would like to thank Practical Tools Initiative for highlighting the Nixon Memorial Hospital’s story and we wish all the nurses studying there all the best!

We are proud to have supplied over 91,000 books to Sierra Leone, many of which are helping health professionals get back to work following the Ebola crisis. Healthcare professionals have a particular need for up to date books and often face special barriers in accessing them as they are very expensive. We are working to reach more health professionals as part of our Vision for 2020. Find out more and how you can get involved using the links below.



April Book of the Month

Our latest Book of the Month is How to make a hand pump by Thomas Simb Simb, donated by CTA (Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation).


Hand pump cover


Since 2015, CTA have donated almost 55,000 of their practical guides to Book Aid International. These booklets are created especially for rural communities in developing countries. They cover a wide range of topics which focus on improving agriculture and sanitation, from animal health and increasing crop yield to using mobile phones for rural agricultural communication. The use of simple diagrams and text makes these booklets easy to follow.


Hand pump insides 2


The books CTA have donated so far this year include copies of this guide to building a well and hand pump using easily accessible materials such as old car tyres, pipes and wood. Having access to this kind of knowledge and information can be transformational for a rural community.

For example, the booklet explains that the long-handled pump makes drawing water safer than the traditional rope and bucket method. It also improves sanitation by reducing the risk of contamination. In addition, this form of water fetching requires less effort. The time and effort saved frees up water collectors (often women and children) to spend more time on other activities such as reading and education.


Hand pump insides 1


Book Aid International’s partners often request practical books on engineering and sanitation. This booklet fulfils both those needs and copies have already been sent to partners in many of the countries we work in, including Practical Tools Initiative in Sierra Leone who will use them in their skills training programmes in prisons and the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya.