Colorado State University, National Charity League Book Drive to Stock Rural African Village Library

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Colorado State University is teaming up with the National Charity League chapter in Fort Collins for a book drive to stock a small library in rural Kapsowar, Kenya. The drive’s aim is to gather 50,000 books – enough to fill a shipping container – by the end of December.

The library, which is part of a missionary hospital that serves people living in a rural part of Africa including Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda, is the only source of books for residents in that area. It was founded six years ago by a similar drive when two Fort Collins missionaries, who work at the Kapsowar Mission Hospital, asked for help to gather books for patients.

"Before this library was established, people from these communities were always trying to borrow books from the doctors. The initial book drive that established the library gave members of the community access to books at all reading levels," said Linda Williams, instructor in Colorado State’s School of Education and an organizer of the drive.

"We welcome any English-language books in good condition, including children’s books and picture books. The children of Kapsowar learn English in elementary school, and having access to children’s books improves their language skills. In addition, English is the official language of the area, so reference books, educational books or any books for the older residents also are most welcome."

The books can be donated through drop-sites at the university’s Greek fraternity and sorority houses and at the Lory Student Center north and Plaza entrances on campus. In addition, community sites are at Front Range Community College, Norlarco, Dunn Elementary and Lincoln Junior High.

Shipping the books costs $10,000. The process entails trucking the books to Houston, transporting them by a small ship to New York City and then via larger ship to Africa. Once the books arrive in Africa, a truck carries them to Nairobi, where they are picked up by hospital staff for a nine-hour ride home via narrow dirt roads.

Drive organizers also are working to secure donations to cover shipping expenses. Books for Development, a program of the Fort Collins International Center organized locally by Bob Sturtevant, a forestry Colorado State Cooperative Extension specialist, will help store the books and coordinate shipping. The group has gathered and donated books across the globe for 18 years.

Dr. Bill and Laura Rhodes, second-generation Fort Collins residents, have lived in Kapsowar since 1999, where they work at the hospital, library and an orphanage. An email six years ago to their friends in the Haddroff family in Fort Collins prompted then-junior high student Annie Haddroff to enlist the help of Lincoln Junior High Student Council in the first book drive. That drive established the library with 50,000 books. Their son, Zeke, is a Colorado State freshman.

Drive coordinators will pick up books if they cannot be dropped at a bin on campus or in the community. To arrange for book pick-up or to donate money toward shipping costs, contact Pam Johannsen in the College of Business at pam.johannsen@colostate.edu or (970) 491-1499.

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