A message from God gave an Ohio woman the push to establish libraries in her hometown in Ghana. More than 10 years later, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident has joined the nonprofit Books for Africa Library Project, which has founded eight libraries in West Africa.
Hilda and Kirt Bromley, an Ohio-based couple, founded the organization and have made several trips to Ghana and Liberia to distribute more than 200,000 books.
During a Ghanan mission trip several years ago, Ahwatukee Foothills resident Jonny Brown was bringing medical supplies and visiting schools, but a lack of books caught her eye.
“I was stunned to see whole schools with no books, whole villages with no books,” she said. “I’ve written lots of books for children, and I take education and literacy very seriously. I came home from that trip, and I had to do something to help.”
Through networking, Brown was introduced to the Bromleys, and for the last 18 months, has been in charge of collecting books for the Ohio-based organization.
“The goal is to help people achieve their potential, through increased education. Having a community library is a hugely important resource in helping people continue to learn and start to improve their lives,” Brown said.
Many of the villages that have benefited from the project had no public libraries before the group stepped in. Some had been looted during the Liberian Civil War.
The project acts as a partner with the local communities. Villages are responsible for providing the building or large room to house the library, lights, fans, bookshelves, desks, chairs and hiring a full-time librarian. The group then trains the librarian and stocks the shelves with books that apply to all ages, Brown said.
Brown collected most of the 35,000 books shipped from Phoenix last year alone, and hopes that more local organizations and schools will get involved in the effort.
“You would think that you just feel good for doing something for someone else, but it’s actually a very self-actualizing and enriching experience to be involved in something that can do so much for other people, with things that we no longer need,” Brown said.
Used book donations are welcome. The project asks for “something that would have value to people in other cultures.”
Books on science, technology, world history, philosophy, health, sexuality and other topics “that help people learn about the world,” are welcome, she said.
Donators are discouraged from giving books on American culture and those that foster cultural stereotypes.
All contributions are tax-deductible. Receipts are available for any contribution.
To donate or for more information, contact Brown at (480) 209-6666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kathleen Gormley is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a sophomore at Arizona State University.