We measure the success of our project in two ways: the efficiency of delivery and the responses of the recipients. From a cost basis, we are shipping books for less than 20 cents a piece. At our books sales, these same books are sold for $1 or more each and are worth considerably more to the recipients. At a minimum, we are sending $20,000 worth of books for $5000 or less. Similar book projects charge two and three times our cost to send books. The response from the recipients has been heartwarming. They indicate that our collection and sorting process works. We ask each recipient to provide a distribution plan and to report back on their efforts.
Mr. Riaz Muhammad, educator and founder of a “Pan Humanity, Pakistan,” has been one of the most successful and trustworthy partners of B.I.G.; soliciting required funding for shipping and distributing books free. The largest facilitator of B.I.G.’s books in South Asia, he has distributed over a dozen containers (more than 250,000 books) to colleges in Pakistan, particularly in the province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Recently Pan Humanity distributed fifteen thousand of B.I.G.s books free on 22 April, 2014 on National Book Day of Pakistan.
Mr. Riaz and his team see themselves as “replacing weapons of mass destruction with knowledge through books across one of the world’s worst war torn regions of militancy and extremism.”
B.I.G. acknowledges the selfless volunteer book distribution efforts of Pan Humanity and will continue to work with them towards the goals of literacy and peace.
In 2001, Steve Frantzich, the project director at the time, traveled to the Czech Republic (as a Fulbright Scholar) and was able to participate in the distribution process. For five days they had lines of teachers and librarians gathering books. During June 2006, he traveled (at his own expense) to Kenya and Malawi for three weeks to observe distribution there. In both cases important information was gathered on the more efficient selection of books as well as confirming the need for the program.
From recipient reports, we estimate that at least 75% of the books we send are of direct use to the primary recipient. Even more exciting, our project has encouraged local recipients to take on their own outreach projects redistributing the books they could not use to other worthy organizations. Two of our recipients have been so pleased with the quantity and quality of books that they sent their own librarians (one twice and the other 3 times) to choose books.
The Meru region of Kenya lies in and around Mt. Kenya and is the traditional homeland of the Masai. It has great beauty and proud people, but no library. The director of BookAidAfrica, Morgan Muthiama raised travel funds and took his first trip out of the country to personally choose books from B.I.G. He had never lived in a house with electricity or running water. He knew no one who had a computer in their home and could not imagine the size and number of local libraries in the United States. Three containers of books expanded the outreach of his program. B.I.G. book contributions encouraged one retired teacher in Embu to turn part of his home into the Bluefields Learning Center and to commit himself to staff it. Over 90% of the books, and all the library shelving, came from the B.I.G. warehouse. Further up the mountain (Nyiro), one of the local chiefs turned over an empty storefront to the community, hired a local resident, and created the first village library in the region. The day the B.I.G. project director arrived unannounced to see the library word got around quickly and over 150 people showed up for an impromptu thank you ceremony.
The value of the project goes beyond the recipients. Each year over 200 volunteers contribute over 3000 hours of effort. Many of the volunteers are students, getting their first taste of volunteering. We attempt to make the volunteer experience positive and educational. There are also benefits for the contributors. Schools and libraries appreciate the fact that they no longer have to pay to have excess books send to a landfill. Individual contributors receive the satisfaction that their precious possessions are being put to good use.