Los Alamos Community Supports Yet Another Shipment Of Libraries To Africa

Steve Boerigter drives a truck full of books that left Los Alamos February 8 New Orleans, Louisiana warehouse February 8. The books will be loaded onto a cargo ship along with 50 other libraries donated from around the country and transported to the port of Mombasa, Kenya. Courtesy photo

Students and staff at Pinon Elementary School celebrate the loading of donated books into the truck bound for New Orleans. Courtesy photo

Barranca Mesa Elementary School students and staff also collected and loaded boxes of books on the African Library Project truck for eventual shipment to Africa. Courtesy photo

Aspen Elementary School students load boxes of books into the African Library Project truck bound for New Orleans. Courtesy photo

Boxes of books ready for shipment from Sharon Allen’s home. Courtesy photo

African Library Project

Yes, Los Alamos, you’ve done it again!!! Last week a U-Haul truck loaded with 236 heavy boxes (13,169 books) headed off the hill and to New Orleans. Those books will make 11 libraries of about 1200 books each for 5 primary schools, 5 secondary schools and one community in rural far western Kenya near Lake Victoria. (As a comparison, that number of books is just shy of the total number of books in the LAPS Aspen Elementary School library.) This is the third truckload of books for African children sent from Los Alamos in the past 5 years (many other libraries were shipped via USPS) but by far the most challenging due to Covid-19’s interference in the process.  

In past years, most of the book collecting, sorting, packing, and fund raising have been done by our town’s enthusiastic school kids through service clubs sponsored by Kiwanis (K-Kids, Builders Club, Key Club) or other interested groups. In March of 2020 when COVID changed our everyday lives and sent kids home for online schooling, progress stalled. There were no opportunities for kids or adults to gather in groups to sort and pack the large numbers of books which continued to be donated and were filling up my house! 

Once schools reopened in August of 2021 I was hopeful that things would improve, but club meetings were sporadic, quarantine affected attendance, and raising funds with kids was almost impossible. Los Alamos Middle School and Pinon Elementary School barely managed to pack the books they had collected just days before rising COVID rates sent school kids back home yet again. Needless to say, the remaining books had to be packed as the deadline for shipment was fast approaching so a very good friend helped haul and pack books for days on end. But on February 7 a U-Haul truck, driven by past president of Kiwanis Steve Boerigter, visited schools and various locations in town to pick up packed boxes of books, take photos, and celebrate finally accomplishing our goal of a library from every Los Alamos school! (We made 4 more!)

The truck left Los Alamos for a New Orleans warehouse February 8 and as of February 10, all books had been safely delivered! Eventually, the books will be loaded onto a cargo ship, along with 50 more libraries of books donated from all over the USA, and start the ocean voyage to the port of Mombasa, Kenya, at which point they will be transported by truck on a 20 hour journey to the far western reaches of the country. Schools must arrange to retrieve their boxes of books and many do it on foot, on motorbikes, or by boat. 
This was an extremely challenging and costly (just over $6000) undertaking, especially during the pandemic, but kids need books and for kids who have never had access to a book, these will certainly make a real difference in the lives of many African children! This huge undertaking could never have succeeded without the continuing support of so many generous members of this community and all I have to offer is my heartfelt thanks! 

This project is ongoing and good condition children’s books (no religious, American history, or holiday books, please) can be dropped off at any school or my home (926 Tewa Loop). Tax deductible donations of funds to ship the books are most welcome, much appreciated, always needed, and can made through our local Kiwanis Club of Los Alamos, P.O. Box 94, Los Alamos, NM 87544, attention: African Library Project.

Feel free to contact me, Sharon Allen, at allenfamily926@gmail.com with any questions you may have, to volunteer, or to be added to an email group for updates on the libraries.  

Aspen Elementary School students pose with the American Library Project truck. Courtesy photo

Chamisa Elementary School students gather at the African Library Project truck with their donations. Courtesy photo

Volunteers from Sharon Allen’s family and Los Alamos Kiwanis Club who participated in the project. Courtesy photo

Steve Boerigter arrives at the warehouse in New Orleans where the boxes of books from Los Alamos will be stored until they are loaded aboard a ship bound for Mombasa, Kenya. Courtesy photo