Tag Archives: volunteers

Packing books in our warehouse

Changing lives through volunteering

Volunteers are essential to the work of Book Aid International. Each week tens of volunteers give their time and energy to support our work. From picking and packing books in our warehouse to fundraising and raising awareness about our work in their local communities and work places. Thanks to their support, we were able to send over one million books to our partners in 2016.

We caught up with the newest volunteer to join the team, Portia, to find out what inspires her to support our work.




Welcome, Portia, great to have you on board! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thanks! I am a 22-year-old student currently spending the summer back at home in London, before embarking on the final year of my French degree at the University of St Andrews.

 Are you a book lover?

I would say that being a book lover is one of my defining characteristics! After not having a television at home until the age of 13, I was raised with books being regarded as a very important source of both entertainment and education. Even my fascination with languages is no doubt inspired by my parents reading side-by-side bilingual books to me as a young child.

What is your favourite book and why?

The question all book lovers dread! At the risk of sounding cliché, Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince still remains magical to me, as it can be read in an entirely different light at all stages of life. My reaction to the ending, for example, has noticeably altered as I have transitioned from naïve child to a more cynical adult! However, the allegory aims to teach several essential life lessons to the reader about love, friendship and altruism that continue to ring true.

How did you find out about the work of Book Aid International?

I was fundraising at university for The Girl Effect  – an organisation working to empower young girls and disrupt the cycle of poverty through improving their skills, ideas and knowledge. A fellow student attending one of our events suggested that I should also look into the work of Book Aid International.

What made you decide to become a volunteer for Book Aid International?

Choosing to dedicate at least one day a week contributing what I can to support Book Aid International was a quick and easy decision to reach. I found myself inspired by the work done by the organisation to support and equip libraries and librarians in Africa. I also share Book Aid International’s belief that books have the power to change lives.

How long have you been volunteering for Book Aid International?

I’m still very much a fresh face – I will have been volunteering for 3 weeks this week!

What do you do when volunteering at Book Aid International?

As a warehouse volunteer, I mainly shelve, stamp and pack the books generously donated by publishers in order to send them to libraries in sub-Saharan Africa. I am also planning on running a 10k race to raise money for the charity.

What does it mean to you to volunteer with Book Aid International?

Volunteering at Book Aid International allows me to very happily surround myself with books all day! It also enables me to meet other volunteers and employees, who are always open to discussing mutual literary and charitable interests over coffee, or indeed update me about the progress facilitated by Book Aid International, which they have witnessed during a recent trip to Africa. Learning more about the charity sector, as well as being rewarded with the knowledge that we are utilising the resources we have to actively make a positive difference in people’s lives are another two of my favourite parts of volunteering.


We’d like to say a huge thank you to all our dedicated and passionate volunteers. We really couldn’t do what we do without you!

If you’d like to use your time and skills to support our work, take a look at the links below to find out how you can get involved.


Inspired Selection volunteers

Volunteering to change lives

International Volunteer Day is a day when people and organisations around the world celebrate the power and potential of volunteerism. Certainly our work at Book Aid International wouldn’t be possible without the passion, dedication and hard work of our wonderful volunteers. You can read more about all that our volunteers bring to the work and life of the charity here.

We caught up with some of our volunteers to find out why they volunteer for us.


I want to share some of the opportunities that I have with others and books and education have made the biggest difference to my life. Books share ideas, they generate new ideas and they put different people’s ideas into communication with each other.

-Alice, Community Ambassador. Alice supports our work in a variety of ways including running pre-school story-telling and craft sessions, Christmas fairs and literary quizzes. She also arranges library fine donations days at Edinburgh and St Andrews university libraries when all library fines paid on that day are donated to Book Aid International.


IBBY conference


Some time ago, I worked in Zambia as a librarian and I received a lot of letters asking for books. I was not able to send any books, but Book Aid International can. I know that the books I help to send will be enjoyed by lots of people in schools and libraries all over sub-Saharan Africa.

– Diana, Community Ambassador. Diana undertakes a variety of activities as part of her role including visiting schools on World Book Day (dressed as Mary Poppins!) to tell children about Book Aid International and manning a stand at an annual conference for people interested in children’s literature.


I have visited Africa and seen the shortage of books in libraries in some of the countries there. I get real satisfaction seeing photos of books I have helped pack now on the shelves of African libraries. It’s a really worthwhile cause.

Helen, warehouse volunteer. Helen works alongside our Operations Team, shelving, picking and packing books ready for shipment in our warehouse every week.


Cake sale


I’m really moved by the thought that some people simply don’t have the opportunity to read for pleasure or education. When I heard about the great work Book Aid International does, I decided to use my position inside a publishing house to help this great charity.


-Jess, Publisher Ambassador. Jess secures book donations and holds fundraises for Book Aid International in her work place.


I believe strongly in the power of education which is why I volunteer for Book Aid International. Children who are bright and ambitious should not be thwarted by a lack of books.

-Jane, Community Ambassador. Jane holds an annual fundraising dinner in support of Book Aid International. She uses it as a medium to raise awareness about the charity in her local area.


It means a lot to me that through volunteering for Book Aid International I can contribute, in a very small way, to the positive direction of people’s lives. Being involved is not all one sided. I feel useful and my life as a retired person has more meaning.

-Shirley, Community Ambassador. Shirley’s activities as a Community Ambassador include raising awareness and funds for the charity at book festivals and designing and selling her own cards and paintings.




I enjoy the company, the friendly atmosphere and above all thinking about the changes made possible for those who receive the books I help send.

-Gill, warehouse volunteer. Gill works alongside our Operations Team, shelving, picking and packing books ready for shipment in our warehouse every week.


I like being a Publisher Ambassador because I believe that the work Book Aid International does and contributes to is essential to increase literacy in sub-Saharan Africa. Books and learning really can change lives.

-Helen, Publisher Ambassador. Earlier this year, Helen ran Edinburgh Marathon in support of our work. She also talks to colleagues, friends and her followers on twitter about our work whenever she has the chance.


Andrew Hewitt Community Ambassador


In the developing world, the correlation between literacy, health, self-determination and economic well-being really drives home the truth of the charity’s motto that ‘books change lives’. I’m extremely proud of Book Aid International’s work and honoured to make a contribution, however small, as a volunteer.

-Andrew, Community Ambassador. Andrew raises awareness about Book Aid International, giving short talks about our work at social clubs, book groups, libraries and schools. He also organises an annual literary quiz for book-lovers in his local area.


A very big thank you from us all at Book Aid International to each and every one of our volunteers for the difference they help us make.  We couldn’t do it without you!

If you’re interested in volunteering for us, take a look at the links below to find out more.


Packing books in our warehouse

A great big thank you!

This International Volunteers Day we want to say a huge thank you to all of our volunteers!

Volunteers are essential to our work. Each year, they collectively donate thousands of hours of their time and raise thousands of pounds to support our work in sub-Saharan Africa. From the volunteers who pack books in our warehouse to our Community and Publisher Ambassadors who spread word about our work, run marathons and fundraise for us in their communities and work places, volunteers contribute so much to the work and life of the charity. We really couldn’t do what we do without them!

Here, Giorgia, our Operations Officer and Team Lead who works closely with our warehouse volunteers reflects on all that they bring to the charity:

As a small charity, Book Aid International relies heavily on the contribution of volunteers. We often say to them ‘we couldn’t do it without you’ and this is the absolute truth. I cannot think of any other words for how valued their work here is.

We are very lucky to have a loyal group of volunteers. Despite having full and busy lives, they still commit a day a week to come here and help. Some have been with us for years, including Jean who celebrates 25 years volunteering at Book Aid International this week!

Mostly the volunteers will help with processing the books for shipment –  shelving books when they arrive from book donors, picking books selected for an order and then packing them. Without their help, I doubt very much we would be in the position we find ourselves in – close to sending one million books to our partners for the third year running.


Gill watering her plants


At Book Aid International, we do not see volunteers simply as people who donate their time to us. They are an integral part of the Book Aid International family. I think this is reflected in the way they go above and beyond the call of duty. When the flower pots in front of our building were empty, our volunteer Gill took it upon herself to bring plants and flowers from her garden and to gives us a wonderful little garden of our own! Many of our volunteers also like to celebrate their milestones (such as packing a certain number of books) by bringing in cakes. Others spoil us with fruit and vegetables from their gardens!


Jean packing books


Recently, our volunteer Paul had to relocate to another part of England. We were very sad to see him go but were delighted that he came to say hello when he was visiting London. He even helped pack a few books!

I could not imagine Book Aid International without volunteers. Without them, we could never achieve the things we do. I would like to say a big thank you to our volunteers and to all volunteers around the world, for their amazing efforts and commitment.


Going an extra mile to support our work

Our supporters never cease to amaze us with their dedication and passion to support our work. Last weekend, Publisher Ambassador Helen Youngs literally went that extra mile to support us by running the Edinburgh Marathon for Book Aid International. We caught up with Helen to find out how it went:




I recently ran my first marathon to raise money for Book Aid International because I know that books and access to books can absolutely change lives. I chose Edinburgh Marathon as I did my research and found that this was a relatively flat course, one that is recommended for first-timers and personal bests. Also, Edinburgh has got to be one of my favourite cities: the green spaces, the history, literary heritage and the coast are all things that make the city unique.

The marathon started at 10am at Regent Road before passing by the historic Holyrood Palace, home to Scottish kings and queens. It was moderately warm and cloudy and those first 13 miles were a dream. The course took us down to the coast and the salty air was delicious and the atmosphere vibrant and promising. I had my running cap on as I knew the cloud was supposed to clear around midday and it sure did!

Sunny, hot, tarmac road, one foot in front of another, sweat – runners all around me started to slow and some stopped to walk. My pace slowed down too and I was sweltering! I had to stop twice for the toilet and later scolded myself for doing so and wasting those precious minutes. But this was my first time and I was worried I wouldn’t make it – or worse, have to do a Paula Radcliffe!

My longest training run was 22 miles and I did 16 weeks of full-on training – a mixture of strength, interval, short and long runs. Race day was the first time I actually ran 26.2 miles and the second half of the marathon in the heat was certainly the most challenging. The course turned back around on itself and at this point I saw my partner. We high-fived each other and this gave a well-needed boost.

After a long four hours and 52 minutes, getting to the finish line was certainly a highpoint. I felt emotional and exhausted and I was crying when handed my medal and goodie bag. However, my favourite thing by far about the race was the people. I saw a lady dressed as a dog, another runner in a rhino costume and so many others who had trained hard and were running for a charitable cause or just for their own personal goals. It was wonderful to be a part of that community.

I have raised £950 and have just £50 left to hit my target of £1,000. I would certainly do it all over again and highly recommend running a marathon. It’s amazing what your body can do with the right amount of training and how generous friends, family, strangers are when you’re raising money for a good cause. Thank you everyone for your support and please do continue to give to Book Aid International, a small charity who are vital in improving the literacy and therefore opportunities of communities in Africa. Hurrah for books!

Hurrah for books and hurrah for Helen too, what an amazing achievement! Thanks to her support we’ll be able to send 475 books to a library in sub-Saharan Africa. If you would like to help her reach her target, you can do so here.



Celebrating the difference our volunteers make

In 2015, we broke all previous book donation totals and sent a record 1.1 million books to our partners in sub-Saharan Africa. This is a massive achievement and something we simply wouldn’t have been able to do without the tireless hard work of our regular team of warehouse volunteers.

Every week, fourteen dedicated individuals join us at our warehouse in Camberwell to help to shelve, pick and pack books ready for shipment. Together they generously give us around 3,400 hours of their time each year! We caught up with three of them to find out why they volunteer for us:





“I can’t imagine living without books. I read of one teacher who had only five books to use with their class at school. I like the thought that people in Africa are receiving the means to improve their lives as a result of my work here.”

We were delighted that Gill was recently invited to attend a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in recognition of her contribution to our work.




“What Book Aid International does is fantastic because it’s something in which everybody involved wins, including the publishers who donate their books. I volunteer with Book Aid International because I believe in the cause and feel I’m doing something worthwhile. It is really satisfying to see pictures which the charity’s partners in Africa send of children reading books I’ve packed!”




“Volunteering at Book Aid International gives me a focus for the week. I’ve always loved books and have been to Africa and seen the shortage of books in libraries in some of the countries there. My husband and I used to take books with us when we visited and gave them to the local libraries.”


As well as our team of regular volunteers, others – from corporate and publisher supporters to schools that fundraise for us on World Book Day – also join us to help stamp or pack books for shipments.

And of course, there are all the people who regularly give up their time in other ways – from running events to running marathons – to support and spread news of our work. This includes our Community Ambassadors and Publisher Ambassadors.

A very big thank you from us all at Book Aid International for the difference our volunteers help us make – we couldn’t do it without you!

You can find out more about all the ways people support our work here.


Turney School stamping books

A visit from Turney School

Earlier this week we welcomed students from Turney School to our warehouse in Camberwell who came to help stamp books, including some headed for our partner Forum for African Women Educationalists of Zambia (FAWEZA), who supply books to schools in Zambia.


Student stamping books


Students at Turney School have been supporting our work for five years, donating the money raised from their World Book Day dress-up activities. The school celebrates World Book Day each year and students decided that they wanted to support our work to support libraries in places where books are scarce.


Students stamping books


As part of the school’s World Book Day celebrations, the students are shown films of our work. But they also wanted to visit the charity they were supporting, so for a second time, 11 students from years 8, 9, 10 and 11 came to visit our warehouse. Simon our Head of Operations gave them a tour before setting them to work. And they certainly got stuck in – between them they stamped over 5000 books! The books for FAWEZA have now been packed and will leave our shores for Zambia early next week.

Huge thanks to the students for their hard work and all at Turney School for their continued support!