When I want to consult a guidebook for travel, find an audio book to accompany me on the road, or research a book to discuss here, I just fire up the computer, request that the book be held at my nearest public library, and stop off on my way to the grocery store to pick up my free book.
In Kenya, it is not so simple. In northeastern Kenya, near the Somalia border, families are nomadic, and the schools that serve them struggle along in the desert, often far from paved roads. In order to reach them, books need to be delivered by camel (12 are in service so far). So the camel bookmobile arrives, the books are spread beneath an acacia tree and people select their books to read until the next time.
When author Masha Hamilton learned about the camel bookmobiles, she got an idea for a novel. And as a consequence of the novel, a charity was born. Book clubs, fellow authors, schools and individuals have been donating books and money to buy camels, local books and tents for shade, since 2006.
Now it is our turn. I am sending off a box of books to Kenya. After looking at the Camel Book Drive site, you may decide to order books from Amazon, Powells, or one of the other sources with a wishlist; or you may decide to send a donation via Western Union. But please do help. Think about how easy it is for you to find a book to read, and then share this information with your church, your book club, your friends.
To get more details about how you can help, click here to go to the Camel Book Drive web pages. Be sure to read the suggestions about what not to send.
When I asked for a progress report, Masha wrote:
At this point, we have raised books for the initial camel library, raised books and funds for camels to start up a new camel library in Wajir, even closer to the Somalian border, and our books are now going to nomadic schools. We are also sending money to help publish, in a simple fashion, the traditional stories, hoping in this way to incorporate the old ways into the modern world.
Mr. Farah, the librarian in Kenya who oversees the project recently reported to Masha that a drought had interfered with deliveries, and his own university studies had slowed down the publishing, but:
So far, the nomadic schools received about 1,200 books through the camel book drive. These are schools that because of their proximity can not be reached by the camel service. The books have been appreciated. We have also assisted some four of those schools with cupboards and book boxes that help them to keep the books.We expect also to utilize future donations to further develop more school libraries in the rural area.
Note: This post is part of an effort by Bloggers Unite celebrating International Literacy Day, September 8. The UNESCO projects promoting literacy have been celebrated on that day since 1966. We want to remind our readers that “Some 774 million adults lack minimum literacy skills; one in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women; 72.1 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out.”