Books to Villages


I want to tell you all about an exciting new philanthropy project that I’ve now tested once in Bolivia and would like to do for as long as I can … It’s called Books to Villages, and the goal is very simple Give villages outside traditional system support access to books and materials that will give them the opportunity to change their economic conditions.

I'm going to try and do this across my travels in poorer regions of the world. The next one is the Phillipines. If, after you read this you feel like it is worth your time/money to get involved, you can visit the Fundraising Page for the country or pm me. Details below.

Even if you aren’t interested in helping out, read ahead anyways and to see what kids have to deal with to get to school everyday. You might end up appreciate your school system a little better after!

The Mission : Books to Villages

A couple things I want to make clear before I explain the project. At the end of the project I’ll have a link to a fundraiser page. Your support would make meaningful and efficient change to small communities outside typical support systems, however even without support I will still be doing this project. It will just be at a smaller scale because it will be all self funded.

Why?. Because I believe in the mission and because when I went to travel I also decided to turn a new leaf, and to engage in a meaningful project to help people and the world become a better place.

We have books!
Arrive in the village with a load of books!

So What Is it?

Here’s the thing: I’m a huge believer that the most effective way to allow smaller, off-grid communities to support themselves is through education. For example, a single person that can speak English in a village has the capacity to radically improve the economic conditions of a poor community by communicating with the much wealthier outside world.

Getting access to the eduction isn’t easy. Because of a number of factors, off-grid communities tend to receive less support than most other places. They are far from urban centers, possess little technology, are often outside of typical government support structures, and don’t communicate as frequently with external communities.

In my first run at Bolivia, I was shocked to find that K-6 kids typically need to walk 2 to 3 hours a day to get to school. Seriously? If you thought you commute was tough, just ask them!

Sometimes kids need to sleep at the school, because the water levels get too high to return home or it is too cold. They have to cook their own meals, that’s if they have food.

We have books!
A classroom

In my time in poorer counties such as Peru, Bolivia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar, I realized that something as standard as a basic education or an ability to speak English can radically change the wealth of a community by opening access to tourism and trade with the rest of the world.

By providing support to communities, it can be effective from a multitude of levels.

  1. The countries are cheap, and so $1 in a country like Bolivia can buy a lot more materials than $1 in America of Australia.
  2. Most these villages won’t have much to begin with, so even a little support goes a long way (i.e large marginal returns)
  3. It’s an adjacent part of my travels, and so most travel expenses are not considered as part of the support. (i.e no need to pay for flying someone somewhere to help. It’ll be on my way.)

Note: All I will be providing is access to better education. I don’t believe in imposing cultural norms on another, so what/how they choose to utilize the books are up to them. I have given them my contact info so they are capable of reaching out if they have any questions or need more books.

TLDR: Kids in these poorer countries have it rough and need better access to education so help me give them books!

How it Works? Simple:

  1. I will be going to mostly poorer countries due to the long nature of my travels
  2. While there, I ask locals for a community nearby that is poor or lacking access to education matrials.
  3. I buy materials at the local price, which should be (if I am smart), significantly cheaper than anything we would traditionally by at the U.S
  4. I organize a visit with the local community, travel there, provide books, and a day of education (if we can get through the language barrier and it is permissible)
  5. As a bonus, I see if I can set up another local contact who can continue to check the small village at some regular timing and if they need further support I will see if they can provide it to them.
  6. I document the event, so you can see where the money went after!

This shouldn’t be too complicated from an operational perspective and my goal whenever doing one of these projects is to never lose sight of the most important thing: Getting access to off-system communities to books.

We have books!
I told the shop what I was doing and they gave me about 50 flashcards like this for free to share with the village

Test Case: Bolivia: La Paz Village:

My first test case was near La Paz, Bolivia. I chose Bolivia as the first city because I was going to be returning there for a week in Uyuuni and Sucre, knew Bolivian prices to be cheap and that La Paz had a diverse set of markets, and that there were bound to be villages outside the center that had problems with access to education.

We have books!
Village of Choquepujo

Here’s how it started.

  1. Recon: I asked my hostel owner if he knew anyone that might know about small villages outside the city that needed help with books. He said he might. I asked him to check while and when I got back to see if he could arrange a visit to the village. I also asked him to think of a good place to buy cheap local books around the area for education purposes. Because of what I had seen English could do toward villages particularly in South America, I requested the target be for English learning.
We have books!
Recon for books
  1. Back in La Paz. Day 1 Book Buying: A week later, I arrived back. Success! The hostel owner (Ivan) knew a guy and connected me to a village. We arranged for me to bring the books over in three days. Problem: I didn’t have any books yet! That day I went over to the shops I asked Ivan to look into. I found a few cheap Encyclopedias for 100 Bolivianos total (17$), but failed to find a good set of books that were cost effective for a community. Ivan had suggested the community was around 35 kids, so I was targeting a population around that size.

  2. Day 2. Book Buying:. Next day I go on the search again for books, eventually settling on a number of very young kids books, a few older books, and lots of supplies. For about 1700 Bolivianos (Roughly $240) I got about 40 young kids books including some english books, a college prep book, a book on the history of bolivia, 40 good lined paper books for working, 60 pencils, 50 pens, 6 sets of color pencils, grid paper for math.

    We have books!

  3. Day 5. To the Village: Getting to the village and transporting all the books cost around ~300 Bolivanos (~$50). We brought the books to the village. School was out, but I saw some kids and I was probably the first foreigner they have ever seen and sharing with them that there are people outside Bolivia that are completely different than them was as rewarding as giving them books. The village’s school was clearly in need of some renovation, but larger and more formal than I was anticipating. After talking to the administration, it seems like the biggest issues are materials and transportation.

We have books!
It was the first time they ever met a foreigner. Some of the kids were nervous.
We have books!
It took some time but eventually we warmed up to eachother

Overall, this was an overwhelming success but I think I can do even better! I would have liked to have gotten more educational books as well as supplies. In the end though, the most important thing was that the kids got the books.

Materials Bought:

  • 32 Younger Kid Books (Focus on English Learning, stories, and coloring books)
  • 40 notebooks (Turns out materials are a scarcity in these schools and they really needed n notebooks)
  • 60 pencils
  • 50 pens
  • 6 sets of color pencils
  • 2 Encyclopedias
  • Graph paper
  • Mathematics Pre-University Book
  • History of Bolivia

Total Transportation Cost: 330 Bolivianos. ($48.18)
Total: ~2000 Bolivianos or $291

We have books!
Books that were bought

Philippines Status

For the project in the Philippines, I already have a ton of contacts in the area as I managed to get some early reconnaissance done on my travels. I’m now looking to find a village that would be suitable for the project.

Projected Date of Implementation: April 24. Village to be decided.

Interested in Contributing?

Link to the fundraising page here: Fundraising Page

What happens if the project continues to be a success?

For now, I want to focus on a few projects that I will personally handle. Philippines is next. Then I would like to do India and China. I’ll continue to set this up while I’m traveling and my hope is that even when I’m done traveling I can continue to impact villages in a meaningful way.

We have books!
School from outside
We have books!
Principle's office

My hope is that it doesn’t always stay with me, but that this can be expanded out to anyone who happens to be traveling in a poorer area and can spare a few days to help kids get materials and books for education.

Ciao from Bolivia!,