More than 5,000 books have been donated to Ethiopia’s largest library after a campaign by an Imperial teaching fellow.
Bethlehem Solomon, from Imperial’s School of Public Health, set up the Abren Le Abrehot (Together for Abrehot) book collection campaign to provide books for the Abrehot Library, which was officially opened in January 2022 in Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa.
The 19,000 square metre facility, which is the largest library in Ethiopia and one of the largest in Africa, is said to have the capacity to hold more than one million books.
"I thought if I did an excellent job, I would get 2,000 books at most. But as people heard, they would tell other people, and the books just kept on coming." Bethlehem Solomon School of Public Health
Ms Solomon, who is also a PhD student at Imperial, said that she was inspired to set up her campaign by an initiative called Ethiopian Homecoming, which called on members of the Ethiopian diaspora living abroad to come home and invest in the country earlier this year.
The Imperial staff member, who is a member of the Ethiopian diaspora but was not able to travel for the homecoming, said: “I was asking myself what I could do to give back. And if I couldn’t go back at the time, what resources did I have to help?
“When I saw the library being inaugurated, I thought it would need books. That is one of the resources that I know a lot of people, such as friends and family back home, do not have as much access to – especially books in English from abroad.”
She explained that she reached out to libraries across London for the donation campaign, along with friends and members of Ethiopian organisations in the city.
Sixty boxes, which were filled with about 5,200 books, were collected over a month and a half through a series of collection days in different parts of London, with all the books stored in Ms Solomon’s flat before they were sent to Ethiopia.
She said: “I didn’t think it would get this big. I thought if I did an excellent job, I would get 2,000 books at most. But as people heard, they would tell other people, and the books just kept on coming.”
The large shipment to Ethiopia was funded through a GoFundMe page set up by Ms Solomon that raised more than £6,000 over the course of the campaign.
Ms Solomon added that she was interested in doing a second round of book donations but noted that she wanted to investigate different ways to pay for the cost of such a delivery first.
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