Steve Boerigter drives a truck full of books leaving Los Alamos February 8 in New Orleans, Louisiana February 8th. The books, along with 50 other libraries donated from around the country, will be loaded onto a cargo ship and transported to the Port of Mombasa, Kenya. courtesy photo
Students and staff at Pinon Elementary School celebrate as the donated books are loaded onto the truck bound for New Orleans. courtesy photo
Students and staff at Barranca Mesa Elementary School collected and loaded boxes of books onto the African Library Project truck for eventual transport to Africa. courtesy photo
Students from Aspen Elementary School load boxes of books into the African Library Project’s truck bound for New Orleans. courtesy photo
Boxes of books ready for shipment from Sharon Allen’s house. courtesy photo
BY SHARON ALLEN
African library project
Yes Los Alamos you did it again!!! Last week, a U-Haul truck loaded with 236 heavy cases (13,169 books) drove down the hill into New Orleans. These books will grow into 11 libraries, each containing around 1200 books, for 5 primary schools, 5 secondary schools and a community in rural western Kenya near Lake Victoria. (In comparison, this number of books is just under the total number of books in the LAPS Aspen Elementary School library.) This is the third truckload of books for African children sent from Los Alamos in the past 5 years (many others Libraries were shipped via USPS), but by far the most challenging due to Covid-19 interference in the process.
In years past, most of the collection, sorting, bagging, and fundraising from our city’s enthusiastic schoolchildren has been done through Kiwanis-sponsored service clubs (K-Kids, Builders Club, Key Club) or other interested groups. Progress stalled in March 2020 as COVID transformed our daily lives and sent kids home for online classes. There was no opportunity for children or adults to gather in groups to sort and box the large number of books that continued to be donated and filled my house!
When schools reopened in August 2021, I hoped things would improve, but club meetings were sporadic, quarantine hampered attendance and fundraising with children was almost impossible. Los Alamos Middle School and Pinon Elementary School barely managed to pack the books they had collected days before before rising COVID rates sent schoolchildren back home. Needless to say, the rest of the books had to be packed as the shipping deadline was fast approaching so a very good friend spent days helping to transport and pack the books. But on February 7th, a U-Haul truck, driven by former Kiwanis President Steve Boerigter, visited schools and various locations around town to pick up packed boxes of books, take photos and celebrate finally having our Aim to have achieved a library from every Los Alamos school! (We made 4 more!)
The truck drove from Los Alamos to a warehouse in New Orleans on February 8th and by February 10th all the books had been safely delivered! Eventually, the books, along with 50 other donated libraries from the United States, will be loaded onto a cargo ship for the sea voyage to the port of Mombasa, Kenya, where they will be trucked onto a 20-hour journey to the far west of the country. Schools have to arrange for their boxes of books to be picked up, and many do so on foot, on motorbikes or by boat.
This has been an extremely challenging and costly endeavor (just over $6000), especially during the pandemic, but children need books and for children who have never had access to a book, these will surely make a real difference in the lives of many African children do! This massive undertaking could not have been accomplished without the continued support of so many generous members of this community, and all I have to offer is my sincere thanks!
This project is ongoing and children’s books in good condition (no religion, American history or holiday books please) can be dropped off at any school or at my home (926 Tewa Loop). Tax-deductible monetary donations towards shipping the books are very welcome, greatly appreciated, and always required, and can be made through our local Kiwanis Club in Los Alamos, PO Box 94, Los Alamos, NM 87544 AT: African Library Project.
Feel free to contact me, Sharon Allen, at [email protected] if you have any questions, would like to volunteer, or be added to an email group for library updates.
Aspen Elementary School students pose with the American Library Project truck. courtesy photo
Students from Chamisa Primary School gather at the African Library Project truck with their donations. courtesy photo
Volunteers from Sharon Allen’s family and the Kiwanis Club Los Alamos who participated in the project. courtesy photo
Steve Boerigter arrives at the New Orleans warehouse where the boxes of books from Los Alamos are stored until they are loaded onto a ship bound for Mombasa, Kenya. courtesy photo