Innovation That Matters

Student-led textbook donation program

Nonprofit & Social Cause

Many organizations donate books of various kinds to developing countries, usually through a few collection centres and a small set of volunteers or employees. A new UK-based group, on the other hand, mobilizes teams of volunteer university students nationwide. READ International (short for Realizing Education, Achieving Development) has established 11 student-led Book Projects throughout the UK to improve access to education across the world and increase youth participation in the global community. Originally launched in 2003 as “The Tanzania Book Project” by a group of university students, it had already sent 50,000 books and materials to Tanzania secondary schools by 2005. Beginning in 2006, however, the group registered officially as a national charity, won the support of five universities, and now works through a community of student-run READ Book Projects to collect disused, high-quality Key Stage 3 and GCSE textbooks from UK secondary schools. Student volunteers also give presentations to promote student volunteering, young social enterprise, recycling and global citizenship, and are responsible for fund-raising towards READ Book Project costs through such means as cake sales, sponsored events and local corporate support. Ultimately, the student teams travel to Tanzania to distribute the books. The result: READ Book Projects have donated 148,000 textbooks to 140 Tanzanian secondary schools and five regional libraries. By the end of the 2007-8 academic year, READ aims to deliver 247,500 textbooks to Tanzania through its 11 university projects, which it plans to increase to 20 in the next year and to 27 by 2009-10, for a total of 1.3 million books kept out of UK landfills and put to good use instead. The group’s founders explain: “We have identified our core strength—our relationship with British students. The opportunity to run, rather than work for, a national organization is our success. We see them as leaders, not volunteers. Over the next three years, we will position READ International to capitalize on this unique offering.” READ International was named the Best New Charity in the 2007 UK Charity Times Awards, and is planning sister projects in Ecuador, Ghana and Zambia. For anyone involved in projects for the social good, putting student energy and philanthropy to work makes great sense for everyone involved. A model to emulate! Spotted by: Shannon Hopkins



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