Donated book shipments
From Peace Corps Wiki
Shipping books to deserving libraries, schools, and community groups where Peace Corps Volunteers have served can be a rewarding experience for the PCV/RPCV and a meaningful investment in the education and development of the community. Unfortunately the US postal system discontinued the M Bag service in 2007 which was a great way to ship books back to host countries. More information on that decision here.
It is now up to friends of the Peace Corps to identify alternatives, which is why this page was created. There are several ways an RPCV/PCV could ship books and the mechanisms vary by region.
In 2008 Ian Gottesman, President of the Friends of Jamaica (FOJ), organized a highly successful book distribution project with the help of two organizations. Working with FirstBook, FOJ registered to be a recipient of a low cost book distribution. The book distribution that FOJ registered for included free shipping anywhere in the US. FirstBook requires that the books be given directly to young people. The rules are spelled out on their website for their different programs. Some of their distributions include free mailing, and others have a very low cost mailing. From FirstBook, FOJ were able to get new books for $.25 each. FOJ registered to receive 4000 books and ended up with more than requested because FirstBook shipped by box count rather than book count.
FOJ then had the books 'drop shipped' to Food For the Poor (FFP) in Miami. FFP regularly sends shipments of donated goods and services around the Caribbean and South America. Take a look at their website to find out which countries they are active in. FFP shipped the books in a container from the US to Jamaica free of charge. In Jamaica, a USAID project working with schools picked up the books from FFP warehouse and distributed the books to students via their schools and project vehicles. It was slightly complicated to organize the project, but FOJ were able to get books into thousands of kids' hands at a very low cost. Both Food For the Poor and FirstBook expressed interest in assisting other RPCV groups. This is something that FOJ will probably be doing annually. Contact FOJ for more details.
In the African region, Books for Africa have a tremendous amount of experience shipping books overseas for 20 years.
In 2007 the San Diego Peace Corps Association gave its Annual Global Awareness Award to The Bookman, a Calif 501(c)3 non profit located in San Diego, that since 1990 has gathered and ship more than 8 million books to more all 50 states and more than 70 countries for free.
Darien Book Aid, Inc. is a non-profit, all volunteer organization started in 1949 that builds a foundation of peace, understanding, and friendship by distributing free books. Book Aid sends books in response to specific requests from Peace Corps volunteers, libraries and schools all over the world. Books are also donated to libraries, prisons, hospitals, Native American and Appalachian groups in the United States. For more information contact DARIEN BOOK AID PLAN Inc., 1926 Post Road, Darien, Connecticut 06820 (203-655-2777 dba.darien.org)
Another novel source of books can be found at BetterWorld.com. BetterWorld is a site where you can donate old books, find inexpensive new and used books for yourself, or help ship selected titles to charities throughout the world.
The World Bank, through its World Bank Family Network ships books as well. Like some of the other programs described on this page, there are specific steps and limitations to ship books from the US to overseas locations. From the WBFN website:
"The Book Project sorts, stamps and packs the books. The World Bank pays for transportation from our facility to the local port of Baltimore, Maryland and for the cost of sea freight to the port nearest the distribution point in the recipient country. NOTE: The Book Project does not pay any handling fees, port charges or any charges related to the cost of overland transport in the recipient country. Those are the responsibility of the Distributor."
Check out the WBFN site for frequently asked questions if you are interested.
There have been calls for a national organization to serve as clearinghouse for small or regional book shippers. Collaboration would likely help overcome increased costs imposed after USPS rate changes in 2007 and reduce the paperwork with large shipments. A national group would also be in a position to file grant proposals with large foundations like Gates. The folks at A Thousand Books have expressed interest in forming a larger umbrella group. Please contact them directly for more details.