Posted by Erin on 10.10.2011 at 2:27 pm
More than 1,800 college and university campuses have already committed to partnering with Better World Books this year in our no cost book reuse/recycling programs for libraries, bookstores, recyclers and student groups.
Posted by admin on 07.22.2010 at 4:42 pm
After our last stop, we sat in at a panel discussion at the University of the Western Cape. The topic was “Universities, Schools and Business Collaborations To Improve Literacy In Africa”. The panel included Patrick Plonski from Books From Africa, Gary Zelko from Merck, Prof Genevieve Hart from the university, and our own Paco Miller!
Before the discussion started, there was a short presentation by Professor Hart regarding libraries in South Africa, their importance, companies that help build libraries, library use, access and the book famine in South Africa.
Posted by admin on 07.21.2010 at 1:32 pm
This is a city like any other in that there are traffic lights and congestion. However it is on the Atlantic and the beach here is beautiful. We were lucky enough to have dinner at a place right on the ocean. A beautiful sunset for our last night in Africa was ordered up especially for us.
1 Comment » | Tagged Africa 2010, Literacy Trips, Uncategorized
Posted by admin on 07.20.2010 at 3:00 pm
Hello Again! Our trip to South Africa is nearing an end, and we are all a little sad to see it go. As Maura described, South Africa is a beautiful and welcoming nation. As we finish up with a three night stay in bustling Capetown, we’re all thankful we arrived after the World Cup games were over. Not only are soccer jerseys on sale (they make great gifts!) but it’s generally just easier to get around and see the town, which we have taken some time to do before our 20+ hour journey back to the States.
On Sunday we took a guided tour into the rolling countryside where we shopped, dined, and tasted the wine of the French and Dutch communities surrounding Capetown. The colonial history was fascinating for me, and really makes one aware of the micro melting-pot that South Africa is. English communities mingle with Dutch and French communities, in addition to the native African communities that have been here even longer. The views of the setting sun behind the sandstone mountains and over the ocean were breathtaking.
On Monday, we returned to school visits in the city. Just like the rural schools, some schools are well-supplied and have lots of room to keep the books and for students to use them. Others have little room for books because the classrooms are already overfilled; but still need books to encourage a reading culture among their students of all ages.
We spent the afternoon at the University of the Western Cape where our own Paco Miller spoke with Pat Plonski of Books for Africa and Gary Zelko of Merck Publishing on literacy forum. The panel centered around the access that South African students do and don’t have to books, and how our respective companies work together to provide more books and funds for schools all over the continent.
As a group, I feel that we’ve really connected in the last two weeks: We share dedication to our work and have all been touched by the students and teachers we’ve met here. While sad to leave, we are eager to return with our photos and stories to our friends and colleagues; hopefully we can inspire their continued support as well.
– Audrey Mohr
1 Comment » | Tagged Africa 2010, Literacy Trips
Posted by admin on 07.16.2010 at 12:57 pm
The trip is going well. Uganda was as emotionally stirring as South Africa is beautiful. I was not aware of how beautiful a country South Africa is nor was I as prepared to be as touched by the people of Uganda as I was. Keep in mind that Uganda is basically a country that has been upset by war. A violent conflict that has taken its toll on the people of the country. Imagine having to leave your home just to be safe and then not be able to return once the war is over because you no longer have title to the land as it was handed down from your father’s father? This has happened to many. If you were widowed while in the camps that were built to house you to keep you safe, you cannot return home because it is your husband’s family that owns the home you once knew. So what happens then and where do you go? There are way too many here trying to figure that out.
The people of Uganda have been through so much I find it so unbelievable that they are as open and friendly as they are. They have to be one of the warmest people I have met in my life. They welcome strangers into their homes, feed them, and pray for them upon departure. They were honest and open when talking to us. The people we were meeting through the Legacy Scholarship Program offered by Invisible Children were the proud parents and it was clear that they just want the best for their children.
The folks of South Africa have been as warm. The students or Learners as they are called here have sung and danced for us at each location. The teachers and other students have given speeches to thank us for our work. I must say I have met some very poised 7th graders that are able to speak to a crowd of people in a stirring way! Most of the libraries have been set up and are in good shape but could always use more space and books. They serve an incredible amount of food to share with us and it is an outright celebration that we have come to visit. Next time I visit home the family is really going to have to do some things differently because a person could get use to this type of treatment!
Posted by admin on 07.15.2010 at 4:27 pm
Of course internet access has been spotty for our Africa travelers, but I just go this update from employee Jason Staples who is along for the ride. Enjoy a few days of his unique reflections!
We have just landed in Uganda! It is quite a small airport, with quite a few Coca-Cola logos. We were immediately greeted by Andrew from Invisible Children. We traveled approximately five hours from the Entebbe airport to Gulu, where we were staying in a hotel in the middle of downtown. The first culture shock of the trip occurred when we immediately were thrown into the craziest traffic I have ever seen. Our van driver was constantly honking at cars, scooters, and bicycles riding the shoulder of the road. Along with the people on the side of the road, we witnessed goats, cows, and monkeys. Some of them were even riding in the back of the trucks! The power seems to go out in Gulu on a semi-regular basis, also. We have been adjusting pretty quickly though and our flash lights have come in handy on a few occasions.
July 7, 2010
Breakfast. We have become quite accustomed to Spanish omelettes, toast, bananas, and fruit juice every morning at our hotel. Apparently though, you become a target of mosquitoes when you eat a lot of bananas and then sweat. Most of us have chosen to live dangerously and just eat lots of bananas.
After breakfast, Andrew picked us up from the hotel and took us to the Invisible Children office in Gulu. There is a case on the wall in the lobby, displaying all of the products that IC has created since they started. He gave us a short history of the Read more…
1 Comment » | Tagged Africa 2010, Literacy Trips, Gulu, invisible children, Jaosn Staples, Mattuck, uganda
Posted by admin on 07.13.2010 at 8:00 pm
Hello Again! Our itinerary has kept us quite busy, and will continue to for the next week until we fly back to the States. We are now in South Africa and looking forward to visiting our Room to Read and Books for Africa partners.
Our last few days in Uganda were very memorable. We all had the opportunity to travel for one day with Invisible Children mentors as they made visits to families and students. Invisible Children sponsors a scholarship program for nearly 700 students in the Gulu, Uganda area. These students not only have their education paid for, but are partnered with a mentor who helps the student to focus on their studies. Many of the students attend boarding schools as well and the mentors communicate between the students and families so news from home makes it to school and back again.
The main mode of transportation for the mentors is cheap, fast and easy to maneuver in the busy Gulu streets: motorbikes! A number of us even cruised a little way out of town and into the bush, where the countryside is green, lush and covered in a mixture of tall grass, tasseling maize, and palm trees. I stopped at five different homes over the course of the day (which included a break at lunch for the local high school volleyball tournament) with Jefferey, who mentors 32 students in all. The conversations were in the local language, and usually centered around the health of the family members and other happenings at home. It was a fascinating and humbling experience to be invited into homes, offered maize (like sweet corn, without the sweet, butter or salt!) and soda and hear the conversations translated from my mentor. What an incredible look into the real day-to-day experiences of a wonderfully hospitable and open culture.
So much of our trip has been enlightening and terrific. However, I feel it is only right to share some of our more anecdotal experiences as well. In preparation for a cruise on the Nile which was planned for our time at Murchison Falls National Park (see Jason’s upcoming post), one of our members visited the Pharmacy asking for a motion sickness remedy. Upon leaving, walking to our restaurant and opening the box and reading the details, we found it was actually a remedy for morning sickness. This person was able to return the purchase for a full refund.
Ugandan vehicles have to be built to survive hard and bumpy roads in the dry season and large mud puddles and slicks in the wet season. Our vehicle was from the Invisible Children office, and held up wonderfully for our long hours on the road. One afternoon, as we were about halfway through a five our trek, we stopped to stretch. As soon as everyone was out of the car, we heard a hissing and looked; our rear tire was losing air, and quickly went completely flat. Luckily we had a spare with us, but the jack we had wasn’t tall enough to get the vehicle far enough off the ground! The next hour (maybe more) was spent trying to place the tire in the perfect pothole, while keeping the axel on high ground so we would be able to get the tire off. The truly ironic part was that this was one of the smoothest gravel roads we had been on in days…
More stories to come!
P.S. Wanna see how the whole thing started? Check out the earlier Africa trip posts:
Posted by admin on 07.09.2010 at 1:29 pm
In today’s guest post, Maura Varian, the Managing Director of our UK operation shares her thoughts as she participates in the Better World Books Africa Trip.
Most of us started in the states, and it has been a multi-leg excursion. South Bend – Chicago-London-Emtebee-Gulu. All total 15 hours over two days, will it be worth the trip?
I don’t know about all the others on this journey but there are some of us that had no idea what lay ahead or what to even expect. What will the people be like, what will the temperature be, what will the places we visit will be like and what will folks think of us are all questions that were going through my mind. I know for me I had no point of reference whatsoever. Yes, I’ve seen the charity advertisements on late night TV, but that couldn’t be what it is ALL like? Yes, I’ve seen movies like Out of Africa, but come on – that is just a movie and not about current times. I’ve seen the videos our literacy partner Invisible Children has produced, but that can’t be what it is like now, things have changed, right?
So for some of us, we had no way to be prepared for this trip. I chose before coming not to think about that. I chose to realize that this was an opportunity of a lifetime and I was taking it. For me this was fulfillment of a life-long dream. I always said I wanted to go to Africa before I was fifty…I only missed it by a couple of days! (OK now everyone knows how old I am)
The journey was topped off with a 5 hour drive from Kempala to Gulu. We travelled through several villages, passed many primary schools, crossed the Nile and even saw monkeys. I have to say by the time yesterday ended…I felt complete and the actual trip hadn’t even really started.
On the Ground
I can only say that this has been so far an amazing experience and I am only 3 days into it. I can only equate it to other places I’ve been by saying it is like some of the less developed islands I’ve been to in the Caribbean. However, for most of those trips one had the resort to Read more…
Posted by admin on 07.08.2010 at 10:40 am
I am a student at the University of Wisconsin studying Hydrogeology and water chemistry so taking a trip to Africa with Better World Books is a pretty big change! Despite classes that focus on advanced calculus, advection/dispersion math equations and contaminant flow physics, I have a feeling (even after the first day!) that I will learn more on this trip than any former class or job has taught me.
As the service chair for the UW-Eau Claire chapter of Golden Key International Society, I coordinated my campus Better World Books book drive this year. My responsibility is to coordinate volunteers to collect and box books, and ensure those books go to our bookstore to be shipped. In the last few days, I have learned what happens after our textbooks are boxed, taped and shipped. It is so inspiring to learn about the people that work to receive, scan, sort and ship our books to the non-profits that distribute them to schools all over Africa. Some of those people are on this trip, and I am having a fantastic time getting to know them.
Each of us it different; some well traveled, some new to traveling, others who will try goat for lunch and some of us (including me) who are aren’t quite as adventurous just yet. However, we are all enthusiastic about learning how Better World Books and Invisible Children have helped the local schools and students.
Today we visited four schools in the Gulu area. Each of the libraries are modest but essential to the development of each student. I had the opportunity to visit with Phoebe, a shy teenage student who enjoys music, especially R&B. She’s studying to become an engineer with the goal to help children and the elderly. She loves to study, but recognizes that her school needs more books. This touched me- and I really felt for the students who have never walked into a library where there are 1000 book shelves. The library at Phoebe’s school had 5 partially-filled shelves of books.
I also spoke with a librarian at Gulu High School who brought us into a senior classroom (the average size which is 70 students, unheard of in the US!). When the librarian introduced us as the people that collect books to ship to their schools, the students broke out in a unanimous round of applause. It was an amazing experience, and really gave me an awareness of how fortunate I am to be educated in the States, and how many basic needs have not been met in much of the world, and how much room there is for improvement. And this is only Day 1…
– Audrey Mohr, University of Wisconsin
Check out the earlier Africa trip posts:
Posted by David on 07.07.2010 at 3:10 pm
I am pleased to announce that seven Better World Books employees… along with our first-ever college student winner (Audrey Mohr from University of Wisconsin who ran the most successful college book drive this spring)… are heading to Africa in early July to work closely with three of our primary non-profit literacy partners (“NPLP’s”) and those whom they serve.
They will get to see and experience firsthand the work that our NPLP’s are actually doing on the ground in Africa and get a full measure of the impact that Better World Books’ cash contributions and donated books are making in Uganda (through Invisible Children) and in South Africa (through Books for Africa and Room to Read). Over the course of two weeks, the team will be visiting schools and libraries and meeting with students of all ages along with librarians, teachers, administrators and local NGO partners. We’ll be posting their adventures right here on the blog so expect great stories and even pictures and videos if internet access allows. (If not, we’ll share all that good stuff when they get back!)
Without further ado, let me introduce you to the team:
Maura Varian, Managing Director of the UK
Paco Miller, Team Lead, Analyst Team and member of our Literacy Council
Paul Drake, Manager of our ARC Group
Joe England, Buyback Team
Ryan Van Plew Cid, ARC Team
Stephanie Williams, Scanning Team
Jason Staples, Customer Care
and Audrey Mohr, Student Winner (University of Wisconsin)
I hope you’ll enjoy hearing about the trip and seeing through the eyes of Audrey and our staff how every purchase you make and every book you sell back or donate is making a difference!
5 Comments » | Tagged Africa 2010, Literacy Trips
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