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News - January 2, 2013

Portola Valley family organizes book drives for African libraries

by Chris Bradshaw

Portola Valley's own 11-year-old twins Olivia and Alec and their parents Ward Vercruysse and Sofie Vandeputte have been named one of four grand-prize winners in Family Fun Magazine's 2012 Help from the Heart Volunteers Contest.

This amazing family organizes book drives to start libraries in Africa through the African Library Project, a national organization that works in five African countries, but is headquartered in Portola Valley. The project coordinates book drives throughout the U.S Each drive is matched with an African wannabe library project, then collects 1,000 gently used children's books and raises approximately $500 to ship them.

During the past three years, the Vercruysse-Vandeputte family has sent more than 7,000 books to help start seven libraries in Ghana, Lesotho and Botswana. Now the family is packing up 3,000 more books to start two new libraries in Lesotho at Ikeheng and Renekeng High Schools and one in Botswana at Oodi Primary School. Last year Olivia's Portola Valley Girl Scout Troop 61712 worked to start another four libraries in Botswana.

I'm so proud to have a local family work to make a huge difference in areas of the world that need it most. As a result of their win, Family Fun gave a $5,000 prize to the African Library Project and published an article featuring the Vercruysse-Vandeputte family's work. The article inspired dozens of families around the U.S. to volunteer to do a book drive to help start a library in Africa.

The African Library Project has started 890 libraries in total and will soon send its one millionth book to Africa. Between Corte Madera, Ormondale and Windmill schools, and Portola Valley families, our little town has now started 28 libraries through the African Library Project. If there were a Guinness Book of World Records category for Most African Libraries Started by a Single Town, Portola Valley would certainly be at the top of the list.

Chris Bradshaw, a resident of Portola Valley, is founder and president of the African Library Project.

• Visit tinyurl.com/Fun-113 to read the article in Family Fun Magazine.

• Visit africanlibraryproject.org for more information on the African Library Project.