After the Peace Corps approved Project Amandla’s grant – our Books for Africa project to ship 22,000 books to South African schools – I figured fundraising would be smooth rollin’. A huge group of PCVs teaming up and fundraising $5,000 to start or enhance libraries in rural communities that otherwise won’t have access to library books – it sounds impactful and necessary. How hard can it be if you ask for small sums of money from our fellow citizens of America?
OH YO, HOLD THAT THOUGHT. That was naïve Little Liz speaking.
I calculated that if I asked 20 friends for $20 each, that would be $400. A project like this this definitely attracts a large Facebook audience, but then I think people forget to actually make a donation later. I’ve sent e-mails again to my friends again and got more responses this time around. We’re still a little less than $2,000 short. So, my dear friends from the east coast to the west coast: The cost of your Starbucks latte or Friday night beer, $5, even makes a difference and will send four books out here! ANYTHING helps! Be a global citizen and good karma will come your way. I promise you, I owe you a thank you card from my kids now and some traditional Zulu beads when I get back to the States in a year. I will also buy you a drink if we’re living in the same city — hold me to it! I hate having to ask people for things, but at least this is for a good cause and WILL make a difference for years to come. (Did I convince you to donate after annoying you for the 100th time? If so, here ya go: https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=13-674-004 )
This project is becoming time sensitive because fundraising is not going as quick as I nor the Peace Corps presumed. As one of the project leaders, I have spent so, so, so much time looking into/applying to different sources of funding, coordinating the whole group of people and communicating with potential donors. On the other hand, things in South Africa are going well. My school kicked butt on raising R2,000 (200 USD) in one school term and schools are slowly getting in the money they fundraised to pay for half of the shipment costs of the books. Other South Africans or those with ties to this country have expressed interest in funding the project.
I applied to the Dundee Rotary Club for funding a few months ago; Dundee is the neighboring town to Nquthu and has an active rotary club. I chatted with on the phone with the president to introduce the project. A week later, I stumbled upon a braii with the Battlefields PCVs in the German community about 30 minutes from Will’s Peace Corps site. I met an American high school exchange student, Taylor, who was going to school for her junior year in Dundee. Taylor was an exchange student through the Rotary Club International and knew the Dundee Rotary Club members quite well. The braii was a fundraiser for the church and actually hosted by the Dundee Rotary President, his wife and other Rotarians. Taylor personally introduced me to them, and by sheer luck they were able to put a face to a name and a project. On Friday, a Rotarian who knows my school will pay a visit to talk to me about the project and see my library. On August 20th, Paige and I are heading to Dundee for the night to make a presentation for all the Rotarians at their bi-monthly meeting to decide if or not they will help fund our project. Fingers are crossed!
Out of the blue, I also got an e-mail from a couple based in Atlanta that lived in South Africa for some years and has business ties here. They are Books for Africa partners and volunteer to help pack containers of books in Atlanta before they’re shipped to Africa. They have also traveled around Southern Africa to personally deliver books to rural schools and took their grandchildren along with the hope of instilling a sense of philanthropy in them to continue their legacy (HOW AWESOME, RIGHT?). They’re currently working on a project in Zimbabwe, but are having a hard time coordinating it because Peace Corps Volunteers do not have a presence in Zimbabwe. They are interested in helping out with our project – whether that is packing the books personally for us in Atlanta and making sure our order form is correct or coming to South Africa and actually delivering some of the books. They also are putting me in contact with a personal colleague in a rotary club based in Durban for potential funding. I do hope they become involved in our project and I get to meet them to hear more about their lives. Whatever more they’ve done, I know it’s inspiring and I’d be interested in doing later in life.
All in all, there are some pitfalls and some blessings with this project. Really, funding huge projects like this is all about networking and luck. It seems as though I’ve got a good network of global citizens so far. I just have to be optimistic that we’ll be done with fundraising in mid-September at the latest and get these books in our schools by November. Help me make that happen, be a part of this inspiring network of people and and keep my hopeful spirit up!
Thank you to anyone who has donated so far. Please let me know if you have so I can get my little learner thank you troops on their feet.