Books2Africa at The London Book Fair 2019

The main purpose of attending the London Book Fair was to make Books2Africa known to a new audience, and to attract new donors and sponsors. In addition, we had the honour of having contact with publishers that already work with us and improve these relationships. At the end of the day, the organization achieved at least the main goal: raise awareness about Books2Africa to people who might not have heard of the charity. Personally, I feel we, as volunteers, gained a lot more from this experience.

Planning and preparing as a team

First of all, we both worked individually and as part of a group. We worked together to find the best prices for the train tickets to London, used the underground and arrived at the fair on time to take pictures and share them on social media. We needed to trust each other, to think quickly on our own but act all together as a team. This has strengthened our interpersonal skills in a professional environment that is not the usual Books2Africa Processing Centre where we work. While improving the presence of the organisation on social media, we were mindful to avoid any personal actions that would jeopardise the organization’s image. The synergy we created through these little actions set the mood for the rest of day and will certainly continue after we return to our offices in Canterbury. A perfect example of this new team dynamic is this report that is the result of a collective effort. 

The event and individual contributions

The London Book Fair was a professional and exciting environment. None of us had attended an event of that size or calibre previously. As soon as we arrived, we looked for our partners such as Macmillan Education to take pictures together and demonstrate our presence at the event. We then decided which parts of the hall and stands we wanted to visit and each set-off on our personal journey. We talked with dozens of people from various publishing companies and sometimes we encountered very rude people. Many of them were busy or just not available to talk with representatives of a charity. However, we took the challenge with optimism and tried to do our best. Firstly, I talked about the possibility of collaborating with us as an opportunity for them to boost their image. Indeed, we not only improve the quality of education for thousands of people in Africa, we also try to reduce the huge waste created by books that are thrown away in the UK. Many companies welcomed the occasion to become “eco-friendly” and attract responsible consumers to their firm. Secondly, I thought it was worth noting that our charity possesses the Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. This approach worked with small business companies that surely use this sort of event to increase their credibility on the market.  We also handed out various leaflets and collected some with email addresses of companies who showed an interest in possible collaboration or association.

My colleagues and I surely improved our communication skills, our adaptability and creativity.

Future Improvements

As said before, the opportunity to attend this event has had an important impact for both the organisation as well as for us the volunteers. We learnt a lot from this experience that could be improved for future success. Firstly, even though we underestimated the magnitude of this event, we managed the situation very well. With more preparation, perhaps through speaking with people that had already attended in previous years, the volunteers that will attend next time will achieve more. Secondly, we did not realise the relevance of booking appointments with firms’ representatives before hand and could not talk with all the people we wished. Many of them were too busy to listen to our brief presentation or sometimes they did it without paying real attention because they were thinking of their next meeting. Probably, booking appointments with publishing companies previously could fix the problem and make them feel more comfortable speaking with volunteers. 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19) updates

A quick update about what Books2Africa is doing in response to these uncertain times caused by the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Our top priority is the health and wellbeing of our staff, volunteers and supporters. Key to this is following government recommendations closely. Thankfully no suspected cases of COVID-19 have been reported amongst our staff and volunteers. Our Processing Centre in Canterbury is still operational and well stocked with the enough books and resources to ship to Africa.

Please read our updates below on steps taken to minimise the risk to staff, volunteers and supporters.

  • Public Book Collections Suspended: Effective today, we are suspending our collection service for book donations by members of the public in the UK. Although this will affect our book donation numbers, it would reduce the workload on our paid staff who continue to work during this difficult period to ensure the charity remains operational. This will be reviewed at the end of Easter on 14th April 2020.

  • Warehouse Volunteering Suspended: Effective today, we are suspending all volunteering work at the Processing Centre in Canterbury. This means all our UK and International Volunteers are no longer allowed to come into the Canterbury site. Although this will affect our processing and sorting capacity, it makes it easier for us to enforce government advise on social distancing and minimise the risk to paid staff who continue to work normal hours, ensuring our charity shop remains operational and shipments to Africa are dispatched. This will be reviewed at the end of Easter on 14th April 2020.

  • Online Volunteering: During this suspension of warehouse volunteering, we will be assigning all our volunteers to our Education Team to work on a variety of fundraising tasks online. To this end, all our International Volunteers are required to attend an online Skype meeting with our Director of Education on Wednesday 25th March at 9:30 am. UK volunteers who would like to join in can also email [email protected] to indicate their interest in order to receive further instructions on joining the meeting.

 

 
Finally a word of encouragement – Do not be afraid, stay safe and continue to have faith that this will soon pass. 
  • The strictest hygiene standards are being followed at our Processing Centre, with hand sanitisers, disinfectant sprays, plastic gloves and posters reminding staff, volunteers and supporters to wash their hands regularly and wipe their work surfaces.

 

  • No contact deliveries: Couriers delivering boxes to the Processing Centre will no longer require you to sign by hand on delivery. Rather, they are advised to enter your initials.

 

  • Drop-offs and tours suspended: From next week, drop-off appointments by members of the public will be suspended until further notice. Until then, staff and volunteers are advised to receive deliveries without contact and avoid giving members of the public tours of the Processing Centre.

 

We appreciate your understanding as the situation evolves and reassure you that we will take necessary steps to ensure your safety whilst trying to also fulfil our charitable objectives. If you need any support or advice, you can send us an email [email protected]

Thank you for your continued support and do subscribe to our coronavirus updates if you want to be remain updated.
Books2Africa UK Team

Shipping and delivering 1 million books every year
involves the following:

Volume
  • 20,000 books fit in 1 x 20ft container
  • 1,000,000 books fit in 50 x 20ft containers
  • 4 x 20ft containers shipped monthly
Costs
  • £5,000 to process, ship and clear each container of 20,000 books
  • £20,000 delivers 4 containers monthly
Fundraising Target
  • 2,000 individuals giving £10 or more monthly, or 50 corporate partners sponsoring 1 container per year. Thank you.

30%

Processing in the UK

30%

Freight from the UK

40%

Clearing and haulage in Africa

Books2Africa is a UK registered charity number 1152599