African Library Project

The Lexington African Library Project

09/22/2018 to 03/31/2019
Lexington MA

We are working with the African Library Project to provide books to eager readers in Africa who have very few books. Please help us by collecting and delivering gently used books or by raising money to help pay for shipping to Africa. It takes only 1000 books and $500 (plus a little elbow grease!) to start a single library and make a huge difference in children’s lives.

This book drive is organized by ...

I (Lisa Foo) am a mom of three amazing daughters -- who all love reading! I tell my kids that my highest values are for them to be kind, to be grateful, and to work hard for what is important to them. I also happen to be a Lexington-based psychologist, and in this community of plenty have often been struck by both adults and kids struggling to figure out how they matter, and how they can feel good about themselves and their actions above and beyond just achieving. I also regularly see how easy it is to get stuck thinking about what's going wrong in our lives and what doesn't seem fair, and how thinking about the challenges that others face can open our eye to gratitude for all that we have, transform our mood, and help us to be kinder and more understanding to those around us.

Our website link:

We want to start a library in Africa because...

I love libraries and can't imagine not having any access to books, the internet, or other written information. I’m fortunate to live in a community that is both filled with books (many just sitting around not being read -- and sometimes even making it harder to find the books on our shelves that we actually want to read), and also generous individuals who want to be helpful, but who don’t always know where to start. I feel especially drawn to trying to spread compassion and kindness given the increasing hostility I see in my nation and world, and a desire to correct the view that those in other countries may have that Americans are self-centered and uncaring. I thought that helping to create a library (or few!) in Africa would be a wonderful way to give to others and model my core values for my kids. I hope to help those in Africa who are struggling through a book/information famine, and simultaneously to empower myself and my neighbors here in the U.S. to feel good about making a difference and seeing what important members we can be to our global community. Additionally, I was struck by reading that educating girls is one of the most effective strategies for addressing global well-being and even climate change, and that libraries can provide a route to literacy for even girls and women unable to attend school. I’m excited that the very tangible nature of giving a book from our homes directly to those who need them allows even young children to be part of this journey and to hopefully fuel a lifelong habit of helping.

About our African Partners...

I decided to help create libraries in Malawi specifically because of how high the level of need is there. About a third of adults can't read at all, with even high illiteracy among females. Over 9% of adults are HIV+, leading to huge numbers of orphans. Most families are farmers who are able to produce little if anything beyond what they need themselves to survive -- half of the population makes less than $1.25/day. Many families need their kids to stay home to run the farm and help with basic chores and so can't afford to let them go to school. There is also a shortage of adults educated enough to teach, and schools may have few (or even no) books due to their cost. A community library provides access to books even for those not able to attend school, or for adults who may want to learn to read or access information that they can use as tools to better their lives.

Please contribute these kinds of books...

I will accept donations of all books in good condition! I'm able to send to Africa books at an 8th grade reading level or below (though relatively easy to read books for teens and adults are very welcome!), that are not excessively heavy, not about holidays, and that do not promote a specific religion. Books with content featuring Africa and/or famous individuals of African/Black descent are especially wonderful, as are non-fiction books in general. I would also love to be able to send to each library the following as possible: an encyclopedia set (no more than 15 yrs old), a dictionary, educational children's magazines, National Geographic magazines that have content about Africa, an atlas, small educational games/puzzles/flashcards, and K-8th grade textbooks and teacher resources. Due to issues of shipping costs, paperbacks are especially appreciated when possible : ) . I will generally only be able to send hardcover books if they are non-fiction, or if they are relatively light-weight picture books.

For books that I am unable to send to Africa, I will do my best to exchange them for books that I can send, or to sell them to raise the money to ship the books to Africa.

Here's how you can contribute your books...

I am excited that Hastings Elementary School and Community Nursery School have both agreed to host book drives in January!! Please contact me if you have books that you would like to donate, or if you're interested in taking up a collection among your neighbors or at your workplace or child's school, so that we can make arrangements. I hope to soon create an Amazon wishlist for books that would be especially useful for those in Malawi. I am also seeking book donations from stores and publishers, so please contact me if you are a store owner, author, or publisher, or have any connections! Please e-mail me if you would like a receipt for your book donations for tax purposes.

We need to raise funds for shipping the books...

For every 1000 books that we are able to collect we can create one library in Malawi! However, we also need to raise the money needed to ship the books first to a warehouse in the US, and then (via a shipping container) to Africa. The total cost will vary based on the weight, but will likely be in the range of $400-$750 per library. I know how generous those in Lexington can be and so I would like to aim to create 2-3 libraries. It would also be wonderful to have enough funds to buy specific books requested by the receiving communities and recommended by the African Library Project to serve as valuable development resources.

For those donating books, I invite you to consider also making a financial donation of $0.50 per book to cover their journey to Malawi!

I am also actively seeking financial contributions from businesses and charitable organizations, so please contact me if your organization is interested or if you have any connections!

Here are some ways that you can help...

Right now I am most in need of raising the money for shipping costs, so any financial contributions are extremely appreciated! Financial donations by credit card can be sent through the GoFundMe page

Checks (made out to Lisa Foo with "African Library Project" in the notes field) can be mailed to me at 33 Bedford St Suite 11 / Lexington, MA 02420. Please also consider sharing information about this drive with others! I additionally welcome all book donations -- please contact me directly to make arrangements. Thank you so much for your consideration and partnership!!!

Contact us to find out more

Name: Lisa Foo
Phone: 612-237-8471

Progress Report

Our Goal 3,000 books $2,000 fundraising
Results so far
(updated: 12/16/18)
~650 books $79 fundraising


Thanks to all who have donated books of any quantity, and who have sent money in any amount to help with shipping costs! Below are special shout outs to those who have truly gone above and beyond in their generosity.

Thanks to for purchasing a stack of cookbooks that I received as donations (but would not be a good fit for the needs of those in rural Malawi). Not only did this help me raise money for shipping costs, but Kids Cooking Green will be generously donating these cookbooks to their low income students at The Kennedy Center to encourage healthy eating!

Thanks to the DeVellis family for their generous check to help with shipping costs!

Thanks to the Waldorf School Parent Community Association for donating unsold books from their recent rummage sale fundraiser!

Thanks to Lexington resident Pauline Benninga, who donated HUNDREDS of books that she collected from a variety of local sources (I’ll update the drive total after I’m able to count them all). What an inspiration!!

Thanks to Dandelion Chocolate ( for donating two copies of their beautiful new book Making Chocolate, in hopes that it will give farmers in Malawi the tools and inspiration to consider starting a profitable cacao farm!

Todah rabah to the Temple Isaiah Sisterhood for donating all unsold books, movies, and CDs from their rummage sale to be used for the new libraries and/or sold to raise funds for shipping!

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About the African Library Project

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