Stevenage charity appeals for hands-on help with delayed library project

A team of volunteers worked together to load last year's shipping container with thousands of books

A team of volunteers worked together to load last year's shipping container with thousands of books destined for Kenya. Picture: Lenka McAlinden - Credit: Archant

A charity is appealing for volunteers to help load tens of thousands of donated books into a shipping container, which will then be sent to Kenya and converted into a library for a deprived community.

Just Be A Child, which was set up by Stevenage resident Lenka McAlinden in 2013 following a trip to Kenya, has so far established four libraries and built a number of playgrounds in the African country.

The latest project – to create a fifth and sixth library – was put on hold in March due to lockdown, but the charity is now surging ahead with its plans and needs volunteers to help load the books into a 40ft shipping container on Tuesday, September 1.

Lenka said: “Things are looking up for us and our project has restarted.

“The situation in Kenya is easing off and, although schools won’t be back till January 2021, flights, shops and some hotels are reopening.

“With schools closed, we need to make sure our libraries provide reading material and some form of education to all our children in the six partner communities.

“The plan this year is to build two libraries from one shipment. The container sent from the UK will end up in Kombani, but a complete library content will be sent via lorries to a second location, Mwaroni, where they will convert a Kenyan-purchased container.”

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If you can help with loading the books at Dollimore and Christie in St Ippolyts between 9am and noon on September 1, email or call 07737 500 501.

Funding for this year’s project has been secured, and next year’s financial situation is looking hopeful for the charity, with outstanding grant bids totalling £164,000 and just £40,000 needed to ensure the 2021 project can go ahead. However, the delay to this year’s shipment means the two libraries won’t be completed until December, leaving significantly less time for Just Be A Child to concentrate on collecting the 40,000 books needed for next year’s shipment.

If you can help, have an idea for a fundraising activity, or wish to make a donation, email

“We need all the help we can get,” said Lenka.

For more information about Just Be A Child, visit

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