BY JASON MOTA
Students who have textbooks they no longer need now have a new, impactful option for getting rid of them. They can donate their books to a social enterprise which helps others both in Canada and around the globe, and takes care of the planet at the same time.
Textbooks for Change, or T4C for short, is a social venture that repurposes used textbooks both for local post-secondary students as well as students in sub-Saharan Africa who don’t have adequate access to good educational materials.
According to their website, the cause has already donated 52,000 books to African universities, but the people behind it have no plans to do anything but further improve and grow its impact.
Textbooks for Change was founded by Chris Janssen, who, in 2012, was a student at the University of Western Ontario. He was trying to come up with an easy way to raise money for the school’s Terry Fox and Shinerama campaigns, when he settled on collecting used textbooks from former students and selling them to current students.
Janssen raised about $500, and decided that his idea deserved further cultivation.
When he taught business at a university in Rwanda, it came to his attention how much students lacked proper learning materials – the libraries were sparse and many students would often have to crowd around a single, photocopied textbook.
So in January 2014, Textbooks for Change was launched by Janssen and his business partner, Tom Hartford, and it has since grown across Ontario and eastern Africa, affecting thousands. They aim to donate a million textbooks to African universities within five years, and the initiative is continuing to spread across the province like wildfire, gunning to reach Ottawa by the end of next year. Ultimately, they intend to grow across all of North America, and donate to even more countries around the world.
Back in April, they installed the first donation drop box at Conestoga’s Doon campus, inside the bookstore beside the checkout desk.
Brady Burke, the marketing director for Textbooks for Change, said even though they’re currently focusing on growing their North American presence, and donate specifically to Ethiopia and Kenya at the moment, the impact is clear to see, and plans for the initiative to expand even further will come with its growth.
“It’s really a community-focused initiative, where we send the textbooks to the libraries (in Africa), and students can access and borrow them for the hour or whatever, and then other students can use them too, so it’s really kind of a cool way to let a bunch of students learn rather than just donating them to an individual student,” said Burke. “Students thought it was an awesome opportunity to access textbooks that they previously didn’t really have the same type of access to.”
Textbooks for Change also hires campus ambassadors at campuses across Ontario. These ambassadors are typically brought on for a year, during which they run joint fundraisers and textbook drives, as well as spread word about the cause around campus to improve awareness of its existence. They do not yet have an ambassador for Conestoga College, but according to Burke, he would love to bring one on board.
For more information about opportunities as an ambassador or about the initiative itself, go to www.textbooksforchange.ca, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.