Very few NGOs, let alone businesses, manage to survive, thrive and grow like Books in Homes has in the last ten years. Last week BIH celebrated not only 10 years of growth, but also the achievement of passing a milestone: 500 000 books printed and distributed!
Books in Homes is the brainchild of Val Morris, a retired primary teacher who, while working for Penreach, (an outreach project of Penryn College,) had a passion to help underprivileged youngsters learn to read and to love it. She wrote stories and produced small photostatted booklets which were in the voluntary literacy classes at the Methodist Church in White River,
Jim Middleton, a retired engineer who assisted with Adult Education at the Church, used Val’s reading material in teaching language skills to children at these sessions. It proved to be very successful and he was very impressed by the simple, readable booklets produced by Val. When approached by his son, Andrew, for ideas for projects for The Rotary Club of White River to tackle, Jim suggested that the distribution of Val’s books was an ideal project.
Andrew, President of the RCWR at the time, jumped at the idea and dedicated himself to seeing the project grow. He oversaw the official birth of Books in Homes in 2007 and arranged for it to be registered as an NPO. Grants were obtained from Rotary International (RI) for a printing machine and soon the books were being produced in greater numbers and distributed more widely.
Members of the RCWR and their wives became absorbed by, and involved in, the project, printing and selling books, other Rotarians made jigsaw puzzles and other wooden educational aids for distribution.
After a few years, space for the printing and storage of books became a problem, and Val moved out of her home in Kiaat Street and moved to a flat in town. Currently the whole ground floor of this house is fully utilised by BIH.
It was soon apparent that a full-time driver/distribution manager was needed and Phumelela Dzimba was employed. Some years later when he left to further his studies, Sakhile Mazibuko, the current sales and distribution manager, took his place. Initially the admin and finances of the organisation was dealt with by volunteers, but in recent years the need for a more permanent position became apparent. First Liz Mackintosh took on this role, and more recently, Helene Marie Le Roux has assumed the position of Admin manager.
In the meantime Val has continued to write more books, and contacted local writers and illustrators to assist in producing a wide variety of stories of varying degrees of difficulty and reading level interest.
Although a nominal sum is charged for each booklet or chart, sustainability of the project is dependent on donations from businesses and generous individuals.
BIH currently prints over 75 titles in 8 languages. The books have found their way to many countries in Africa, including Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique Zimbabwe and Malawi to name a few. The books have also been put ‘in the clouds’ by “Little Zebra” and African stories.
The Rotary Club of White River continues to be involved, with volunteers assisting in the printing of books and charts (a recent addition to the BIH offering.)
Books in homes is an organisation that is truly making a difference in the White River community and beyond.