TENS of thousands of books are now on their way to Africa thanks to the work of a Sunderland University lecturer.
Dr Elewechi Okike launched Book Aid for Africa in 2007, providing a reading lifeline to hundreds of thousands of people living in poverty, unable to access libraries.
She watched on as 30,000 books – the charity’s largest consignment yet – were packed up to begin their journey to Mozambique.
Dr Okike, a lecturer in corporate governance, said: “It will take about five weeks for this latest batch to reach Maputo but we are delighted they are on their way.”
Since its launch, the charity has sent more than 200,000 books for people at all stages of reading in countries across Africa.
Dr Okike’s efforts have won backing from high-profile personalities including TV presenter, Gok Wan, and books are now being sent on a regular basis to help educate people from some of the world’s most deprived communities.
Dr Okike originally comes from Nigeria and was moved to do something when she went back to her home country and was left shocked by what she saw.
She said: “I taught in Nigeria between 1980 and 1989 at the University of Lagos. When I returned there in 2000, I was appalled by the lack of books and the fact people didn’t have access to libraries.”
Dr Okike hopes to fill empty library shelves even in the remotest parts of Africa, with good-quality books.
She said: “In this latest cargo, we have books for all ages, from primary school standard right up to books for university students.
“These have come from a number of sources, from personal donations to publishers. We are very grateful.”
Volunteers were on hand to help Dr Okike load the books at a Wearside storage unit.
After travelling to Teesside, they are to be packed onto cargo vessels at Teesport, shipped to Rotterdam and then on to Durban in South Africa before reaching Maputo.
Dr Okike, said: “The pleasure of children smiling when they see these books and the atmosphere of how they approach life, changes instantly. I can’t even explain in words the feeling I get when I see their faces and the difference it has made, it does make and will continue to make. It is so rewarding.”
l To make a donation, visit www.bookaidforafrica.com