Developing Libraries in Sub-Saharan Africa

Collecting Books

African Library Project

When you are a teen and first learning about the challenges facing Africa, what can you do to make things better? Bar and Bat Mitzvahs from all over the U.S. have channeled their compassion into starting libraries in Africa as their mitzvah project. They each committed to collect 1000 books and $500 to start a library in sub-Saharan Africa with the African Library Project (ALP).

ALP promotes literacy and education in sub-Saharan Africa through developing libraries in schools and villages without access to books. By helping Americans start community libraries with African partners, ALP works to change lives, book by book. An all-volunteer organization based in Portola Valley, Calif., ALP has started 701 libraries in 9 countries over the past six years. “We’re thrilled to have these dedicated teens commemorate their coming of age by starting a library,” says Chris Bradshaw, ALP Founder and President.

– The focus on books and learning is central to Jewish culture and also personally meaningful to the book drive organizers. Tabby Block, of Congregation Emanu-El, San Francisco, Calif., jumped at the opportunity to help start a library, “I felt that helping to provide an opportunity to African kids to love books was something that I could do that could change their lives the way books changed mine.”

– While promoting education in Africa, the Bar and Bat Mitzvahs learned a great deal, “Before doing this book drive, I had never even heard of Swaziland,” said Evan Feldberg-Bannatyne of Newton, Mass.

– Bat Mitzvah Anne Prusky, of Congregation Beth Am Israel, Penn Valley, Penn., planned to start just one library, but when she heard that more book drives were needed to fulfill the requests from Lesotho, she decided to meet that need, “I thought, if I can do one, I can do two.”

– Jacob Ganz, a member of Congregation Ner Tamid, San Francisco, Calif., found that his bar mitzvah guests and others were eager to support his book drive for Swaziland, “It was not that hard to do. My family, my school, our local bank, and even my little brother all pitched in to help.” Jacob’s father, Steven Ganz, says the project is a good bonding experience, “It’s really rewarding and fun that we can do it together.”

To learn more about doing your book drive, visit or email

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