Atlanta woman sends 45,000 books to children in her native Congo

She plans to travel to DRC when the books arrive to help partner organizations distribute them to schools and libraries.

“I would like to see the kids’ faces” when the books arrive, said Mundabi, a lifelong avid reader. “If we can teach children at an early age how much books can contribute to their lives, then we can get them reading at an early age and maintain that relationship with books. Then I would have done something good for the world.”

Credit: Phil Skinner

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Credit: Phil Skinner

To ensure a successful transfer of materials, Mundabi worked closely with the Bythiah Project, a non-profit organization based in the capital Kinshasa that partners with local youth and a government educational institution. She recently returned from a trip there.

Books For Africa is the largest shipper of donated text and library books to the African continent, sending more than 59 million books to all 55 countries in Africa since 1988.

Last year, the organization shipped approximately 4,029,000 books, worth more than $32.6 million, to 32 African countries. They also send thousands of digital books to computers and tablets.

The educational needs in the DRC are great, Mundabi said. Children have little access to French-language books. She said more than half of school-age girls have left school during the pandemic and never returned.

“I hope my container will fill some of the (educational) gaps that remain,” she said.

Mundabi also took on the project as a gift to her grandmother, a child bride who dropped out of school at age 12 to get married.

“She never completed her education and that was her biggest regret,” Mundabi said. She said her grandmother valued education and loved reading.

“I wanted to honor her, and I wanted to provide the same opportunities that books had afforded me growing up,” she said.

Mundabi and her family left the DRC when she was six and settled in Johannesburg, South Africa. Books were a companion during her childhood and beyond.

“I remember reading books at school and being able to apply for a library card. I read The Babysitters Club [series]. Books activated my imagination and introduced me to the world,” she said.

“I wanted to be able to offer the same to the children in Congo, to know that books can be a companion. Books can increase your creativity and help your imagination. They are a gateway to different worlds.”

Niclette Mundabi (left) talks with James Hall, Books for Africa production manager, at the warehouse in Marietta. She helps send French books to the Democratic Republic of Congo. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION

Credit: Phil Skinner

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Credit: Phil Skinner

Mundabi’s family immigrated to the United States when she was a teenager. They settled in metro Atlanta, and Mundabi completed her last two years of high school at Dunwoody High. She attended colleges in the United Kingdom for bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Mundabi is a board member of Books for Africa and development director of the non-profit Eastern Congo Initiative, which supports local initiatives in the DRC.

The spring book shipment won’t be her last, she said. She is already in discussions with various partners about how they can send another container soon.

“I’m very intentional about helping,” Mundabi said. “I feel like it’s all hands on deck when you come from a country like that. When you go back, you see the need. I had to move from criticizing what I saw on the ground to meeting the needs and solving the problems.”

“I have the privilege to help where I can,” she added.


HOW TO HELP

Volunteers are needed to help sort and pack books at the Books for Africa warehouse located at 1491 Cobb Industrial Drive, Building B, Marietta.

More information can be found at: booksforafrica.org.

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