Initiative sends books to Africa


Textbooks for Change is bringing its initiative to Laurier (Photo by: Jesscia Mitra)
Textbooks for Change is bringing its initiative to Laurier (Graphic by: Jesscia Mitra)

As part of a new initiative being brought to the university, students at Wilfrid Laurier University are being asked to donate their old textbooks with the potential of helping fill shelves in African universities and libraries.

The initiative is called Textbooks for Change, which recently partnered up with the Laurier Glassco Foundation and Shinerama chapter. Founded by recent

University of Western Ontario (UWO) graduate, Chris Janssen, the approach to the program is to collect used textbooks from students, 50 per cent of which are aimed to be donated to universities and libraries in Africa, and the other 50 per cent being either resold or recycled within Canada.

“I saw old textbooks collecting dust, so I grabbed a few of those and sold them back to first-year students and used the proceeds to fund a few causes I was a part of at the time,” said Janssen. “We then went back to the drawing board saying ‘we made this impact, how big can it be if we try and scale it?’”

Starting up last year, Textbooks for Change is currently operating out of UWO, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Fanshawe College, with plans to be in Niagara College, Brock University and the University of Waterloo within the year.

They have also partnered with the Goodwill London chapter who will be helping with the sorting of the textbooks.

“We are still just starting up. We wanted to start at the roots, so that’s why we decided to go right to Laurier with its history in Shinerama.”

Olivia Montgomery, this year’s Shinerama coordinator, said that working with Textbooks for Change has so far been a positive experience.

“They want it to be a big initiative across Shinerama and the thinking was Laurier would be a great starting point for that because of how involved we are with Shinerama,” said Montgomery.

Stephanie Scicluna, president of the Laurier Glassco Foundation, said she was approached directly by Janssen as a campus partner to help promote the service.

“They were looking to spread across Canada at different universities. The thought was it would be a good opportunity to get into Laurier through us,” said Scicluna.

The on-campus partners will be working with Textbooks for Change by collecting the books at the university, which will then be brought back to London to be looked through and organized according to their designated destination to be shipped out.

Janssen said the process of picking what books go to Africa is determined by the employees at the Goodwill London chapter, who will also determine which ones are to be recycled and resold.

“We go through the books, if it is kind of old and tattered and can’t be used, then the books will usually be recycled. It’s kind of on a price threshold if they determine whether it gets sent to Africa, or if they do get resold. Even if it is an old edition, they can still find a great use for it there,” said Janssen.

Janssen said the inspiration for the initiative came from his experience travelling to Africa.

“I went to Africa for four months and looking at the bare shelves in their libraries I realized something had to be done. They simply don’t have access to these materials over there. It’s a tremendous impact on their education we can make doing a service like this.”

Montgomery believes the service is a great initiative.

“No matter what happens with the textbooks, a positive thing comes from it. So if they can be sold online, that’s great, and profits get to go back to Glassco and Shinerama. If they don’t sell, they can be donated to universities in Africa, which is also amazing. No matter what, a positive thing comes out of it.”

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