The B.I.G. Project
Since 1995, the Parole Rotary Club, with the support of Rotary District 7620 and other Rotary Clubs, has administered, funded and staffed the Books for International Goodwill (B.I.G.) Project. Realizing that thousands of unwanted, outgrown books are gathering dust in storage rooms, attics and on library shelves, while thousands of people in developing countries are in need of both textbooks and recreational reading, the club members embraced the challenge of bringing books to people in need.
Through donations from individuals, bookstores, school systems and libraries, the club has acquired more than 1.5 million books. Club members and friends volunteer two Saturdays a month to sort the books by categories and pack them for shipping. More than 1.3 million books have been shipped to Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and other areas of the world. Local Rotary Clubs in the receiving countries facilitate distribution through both financial and labor contributions. By combining money, contributed services and volunteer effort, books can be delivered for as little as 10 cents each.
The need for books in many countries is difficult to imagine. One visiting law school professor from Liberia spoke about her class of 120 students with only six textbooks. She had literally cut the books in half and let students check them out for two-hour blocks, 24 hours a day. To avoid the three-month wait for shipment, she emptied her own suitcases of clothing in order to take the books directly home.
The benefit to book contributors and sorters is obvious as well. Donations to the project clean out attics and storerooms without books going to waste; sorters have the satisfaction of distributing books to their proper categories: college texts, high school and elementary texts, and general library reading.
The cooperative endeavor with recipient Rotary Clubs provides a fine example of how Rotarians can impact positively on the lives of others less fortunate throughout the world. Most importantly, the project means that thousands of children and adults will receive useful books that can be used over and over again.
For more information on the B.I.G. Project, visit www.big-books.org or www.parole-rotary.org.