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Featured organisation: Biblionef South Africa
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‘We are determined to diminish the illiteracy rate by creating a love for reading. Without being able to read, many doors stay closed and people remain in a situation of poverty. We believe that children, who start enjoying books at a young age, will still be reading as adults.’ Jean Williams, Executive Director, Biblionef SA.

Biblionef was established in France in 1989 by Max Vegelin van Claerbergen, a former Dutch ambassador. It is an international network of independent non-profit organisations and there are currently five depots worldwide – the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Suriname (South America) and South Africa. Its aim is to provide children from 3 to 18 years in disadvantaged areas of developing countries with new story books, thus stimulating their curiosity and desire to learn and laying a solid foundation for their future. Biblionef depends entirely on donations and sponsoring by businesses and private individuals. The enthusiastic commitment of many volunteers makes it possible for the work to be done at low costs.

Executive Director, Jean Williams, set Biblionef SA up in 1998 under the auspices of Biblionef’s founder, Vegelin van Claerbergen. At that time, Jean had more than 20 years’ experience in various public libraries, including playing a pivotal role in the establishment of the Masiphumelele library, near Noordhoek. Under her leadership, Biblionef has developed into the dynamic organisation that it is today. Biblionef SA has received numerous donations from the National Lotteries Board of SA and many Corporates and Trust Funds both nationally and internationally.

Book donations according to merit and need
Biblionef SA provides new books to children’s organisations such as schools, ECD centres and informal libraries in deprived communities in southern Africa, with the emphasis on townships, informal settlements and remote rural areas.

On a daily basis, the Biblionef office receives requests for book donations from various organisations. Each request is assessed according to merit and needs. When the request is approved, the organisation is sent a simple grant agreement form to read, sign and return to the office.

Biblionef has a rolling stock of more than 200 000 books in their warehouse to enable them to react quickly to incoming requests for books. To make more titles available they often commission the printing of books in all of South Africa’s eleven languages. Biblionef also has available some titles in Portuguese and in Sesotho sa Lesotho as well as in Braille, Large Print and Tactile books. The books for the beneficiaries are carefully selected according to the needs of the children and their local languages. Biblionef ensures that all books that they donate are suitable and appropriate to their recipients.

All beneficiary organisations must commit to keeping the books in a safe and secure environment, to share the books by reading to the children; and report to Biblionef after receipt of the books. This gives Biblionef the necessary feedback on the impact of the books on the children for reporting to donors and to evaluate their programme. A second, and sometimes a third donation, may be made to organisations that prove their commitment to promoting reading and keeping to the grant agreement conditions.

Biblionef also requests that beneficiaries express their thanks by ‘paying it forward’ by participating in a community project, such as reading to elderly people or painting their school. Once beneficiaries get involved in a community project, they tend to continue. One example is a school where all the learners, including the teachers and the principal clean their local cemetery every month.

Once schools receive their book donations, they soon realise that they need a secure place to store their “wonderful” new books and many want to start a library. Biblionef recognised this need and has asked donors to fund shelves or cupboards to keep the books safe and orderly. Lots of schools with no resources, end up with classroom corner libraries or even just a shelf of books. Most schools’ greatest wish is to ultimately have their own library.

Biblionef has been involved with helping communities in rural, farm and informal areas to set up their first library, including libraries in repurposed shipping containers. With the support of local and international donors, Biblionef has helped to set up 51 informal libraries in schools and communities. They often work with partner organisations to provide the necessary library infrastructure and training. The Stepmore library in KwaZulu-Natal is an example of a container library.

Resources for children who are blind or have a visual impairment
A key objective of Biblionef is that all children, including the blind and visually impaired, should have access to new books in their mother tongues. Biblionef has provided resources to 21 schools in South Africa and Lesotho catering for the needs of blind and visually impaired children. Biblionef has commissioned the conversion from normal print into Braille of hundreds of popular titles, according to each school’s needs. Titles most appreciated include the Foundation Phase Braille Dictionary; the New Bible and storybooks such as ‘Brenda has her dragon in her Blood’, ‘The Rights of a Child’ and ‘Madiba’s Magic’.

One Million Books Campaign
From 1998 to 2012 Biblionef has donated one million+ books to 6 148 schools and children’s organisations throughout South Africa. It now has a new target – to donate their next million books by the end of 2016. They call on the public to help them provide one million brand new books to southern African children over the next three years. Contact Biblionef to be part of this wonderful campaign.

Contact details:
Address 4 Central Square
7405 Cape Town Pinelands

E-Mail: bibsa@iafrica.com
Web: www.biblionefsa.org.za
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Biblionef-South-Africa/466544616750675


Phone: +27 21-5310447
Fax: +27 21-5310455

 

 

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