Book sale leftovers to help fill Kenya library

Rosemary Zahn and Morden Fire Chief Andy Thiessen hold up books that will be sent to Kenya. (GREG VANDERMEULEN/Morden Times)

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A trailer load of books is ready to go to Kenya, but organizers need your help.

The books are leftovers from the annual Morden Fire Department sale. In past years they would simply be tossed into dumpsters to be recycled. This year Rosemary Zahn and Fire Chief Andy Thiessen have a plan.

“We have them and we have a place to send them to, we just don’t have the means of getting them there,” Thiessen said.

The book sale has happened for well over a decade.

Books are donated to the Children’s Hospital book sale and are put out in the fall and spring sales. Leftovers are given to the Morden Fire Department who hosts a local sale.

That used to be the end of the line for the books which would then go on to be recycled.

But Zahn had a dream to send them to her home country of Kenya.

She said she grew up loving books. “Books were all over my home,” she said. “My dad read the newspaper every day. That was instilled in me.”

But books were not so plentiful elsewhere.

Zahn recalls that only textbooks were available in school.

After she moved to Canada, her first job was as an EA in a Morden school.

“I was amazed at the library there,” she said of the K-4 school she worked at. “Every school in the division had a huge library.”

Her dream began 12 years ago, when she started to imagine a way she could help out Kenya schools.

“I saw them cleaning up the books and putting them in the dumpster and I asked, where do they go?” she recalls.

Zahn organized a small project after the South Central Library Book Sale, arranging for an Africa Resource Centre in Winnipeg to come and fill up their shelves.

But it wasn’t until there was some local controversy that she decided to act.

A Morden citizen, upset with the fact books were ending up in the dumpster, made a splash on social media. The issue became a news story and after Zahn saw Fire Chief Andy Thiessen respond, she decided to meet with him.

She travelled to Kenya in 2017 and met with people in her home town where a library was being built. The local credit union in Kenya agreed to help distribute the books if they could bring them to the port of entry, Mombasa.

“If we send books to Mombasa they would worry about how to bring them to the town I was born,” she said.

This summer she was there again, met with other local leaders and the wheels were in motion.

Volunteers helped store the books in a semi trailer in Morden.

Thiessen said they need to raise $8,000 to send the books.

“I’m finding out that’s kind of a bargain deal,” he said. “BP Grain is going to work through their logistics department to ship them.”

A GoFundMe account called “Fundraising for Kenya Library Book Project” has been set up.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/library-book-project-for-kenya?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet

 When the funds are in place, they will fill a container with an estimated 42,000 pounds of books.

Donations can also be made at the Morden Fire Department. As they are also accepting gifts for Morden Christmas Cheer, Thiessen asks that people indicate what the funds are for. You can also call the fire department at 204-822-3888.

Zahn said she appreciates both South Central Library and Morden Fire Department Chief Andy Thiessen for donating the books and working with her on this.

“When you have a dream and it doesn’t go away, you have to face it,” she said. “I’m thankful to God for synchronizing all of this.”

Thiessen said he’s happy that something so grand has come out of something negative only two years ago.

“These are some wonderful books that can be used,” he said. “ We take these things for granted and we don’t realize that in another country they’re scrambling to have that.”

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