An anonymous letter to demonstrate the process L.A.I. uses to provide books for needy schools around the world.

“Dear Joseph,

Thank you for your inquiry received recently via the Health and Development Aid Abroad Inc (HADA) website relating to supplying books and educational materials for needy schools in your country.

Not a Grandiose Enterprise

Volunteers – the Key to L.A.I.

Despite our grand title, in reality, Library Aid International is a small group that relies on volunteers to operate and generous people and organisations that provide in-kind and financial support. Unfortunately, we cannot meet all the requests we receive.

Our ability to supply used second-hand books and educational materials is dependent on our continuing to receive books in good condition from the general public or surplus to requirements from school and public libraries, having volunteers to sort, box and label them and raising the necessary finances to transport them.

How we Send Books

L.A.I. unloading books for distribution to schools

We have found it to be very expensive per book to send small quantities and now send 20-foot shipping container loads. However, it takes up to two years for funds to be raised and a container load of some 30,000 books in 1200 boxes to be able to be sent.

To-date we have been able to send four containers with over 120,000 books and educational items to some 160 schools in developing countries. A fifth container has just been sent to Cape Town and the books will be distributed by a Rotary International club. We have no plans for a shipment to your country in the immediate future. We have already made a commitment to sending the next container to Indonesia and the one after that may possibly be sent to Uganda.

Sending Books is Complex

The sending of items such as books and educational materials by Library Aid International, or anyone else, is not necessarily simple and straight forward due to requirements in Australia and by importing countries overseas. We would need a receiver to agree to a Memorandum of Understanding so that we are both aware of the responsibilities of both parties. This includes obligations for the receiver, in the case of distribution to needy schools which is our main aim: to provide us with a list of schools, emails and letters of thanks for the schools, good quality photographic evidence of delivery and receipt of books by schools and school children to be used in our reporting documents, promotional material and website.

Also, we are required to ensure:

  • They will not permit personnel to be involved if they pose an unacceptable risk to children’s safety and well-being.
  • They will abide by local legislation, including that relating to child labour.
  • They are not associated with and do not provide funds for terrorists.
  • They will not make any malicious statements about each other, other agencies and governments.
  • They will operate with openness and inclusiveness without discrimination because of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.
  • They will have no negative impact on the environment in the conduct of this project.
  • They will undertake the project in good faith and follow the operational details we require.

Stretching Resources

We need to be good stewards of the books, educational materials and finances that we raise to freight each container. For the cost to send one container load to needy schools in some countries/ports we can provide two containers to others. For example, a shipment to Johannesburg cost 1.5 times our shipments to Durban. A container to Zimbabwe was twice the cost but covered 90 needy schools. This is the third request we have had for books to be sent to your country (one other being for books to establish a library and small IT reference centre in an interior region). We imagine that the cost to send to there could be quite expensive.

Information to Facilitate the Process

However, there may be particular details relating to your request to suggest that we should consider making an exception. We do not want to raise your hopes for a shipment but, if you would like to pursue this matter further, we would like you to please provide us with more detail about your request: e.g. that you understand the books would be used/second hand, more about yourself, the community or need that you are seeking to help including location and number of schools, the quantity and age range of books you are seeking, whether you can provide assistance with finances for customs clearance, any taxes and distribution to the schools, whether there is a Rotary club we/you could link with to help with this, whether your government allows importation of second hand books, whether an import tax applies, who would check for and organise for any necessary permits and documentation, whether you could wait for some years, etc.

We look forward to hearing from you again with more details so we can better understand your request and expectations.

Keep encouraged.

Ian Hubble

(Secretary) For the LAI team”


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