Aussie Books for Zim sent one of two shipping containers of books and library equipment to Zimbabwe on Friday after a crowdfunding campaign helped raise the $16,000 the charity needed.
Chief executive and founder Alfred Chidembo said the shipment comes after 60,000 books and library furniture, lab equipment and school uniforms were collected as a result of many generous donations in 2018.
The first shipment from Wollongong will immediately help thousands of children in villages throughout the country by helping set up libraries in remote rural communities.
Dr Chidembo said a library was a gift that keeps giving and the shipping container that left Storage King, Unanderra on Friday with the help of Murrell’s will have a long term impact on many lives.
With that shipment and another from Melbourne in coming months full of brand new books more libraries will be established directly influencing over 10,000 children by improving literacy and learning.
“There are library shelves from Canberra and Sydney and Wollongong and everywhere,” Dr Chidembo said.
“We will get 20 to 30 libraries from this container for communities where they have never had a library before. We want to set them up and train them how to run their own libraries. We want the kids to develop a reading culture. That is what drives us”.
A number of libraries were previously set up as the result of a shipment of a five metre container with 30,000 books.
The shipment that left Wollongong on Friday was a larger 26.4 tonne container.
Dr Chidembo said one of the heartbreaking things on Friday morning was when former Wollongong Science Centre and Planetarium director Glen Moore arrived with a telescope he wanted to donate and there was no room to fit it in the container.
“I said to Glen how sorry we were but that we will find a way to send it to Zimbabwe,” he said.
“We were filling the container up until 9pm on Thursday. In 46 days it will arrive in Zimbabwe and I will be on the ground to make sure everything is okay. Then we will start setting up the libraries”.
The shipment was made the same week Dr Chidembo was a nominee at the Wollongong Citizen of the Year Australia Day Awards, was presented a special award by Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery and was invited to speak about Why Wollongong when he migrated to Australia.
He spoke of what a wonderful community it is which is reflected by the generous donations for the latest Aussie Books for Zim shipment.
“It has just been amazing the way the community has come and helped us out,” he said.
“It is so humbling it is just unbelievable. And my wife and mother-in-law helped so much with the packing. We have used over 200 volunteers and the list keeps growing”.
Dr Chidembo said he was so humbled by the Lord Mayor’s recognition.
“He told me I was doing such a good job and to keep doing what I am doing,” he said.
“Now I can stop working full time and just work on this. The idea is to grow it in such a way that we make a big impact. And get to a point where it is self sustainable. One of the communities has already started building their library and sent me pictures this morning”.