A Konnect Africa Interview with Bisila Bokoko on Books, Libraries & Africa

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A visit to her hometown in Equatorial Guinea changed her life forever and awakened a desire to  share her love for reading with African children. Enter the Bisila Bokoko African Literacy Project which builds and donates libraries to rural communities across the African continent.

 Why books you might ask? BisiIa says, ‘I am a living proof of how reading can shape your future and open your mind to opportunities.’

Learn how she channeled a passion into developmental impact; it’s a personal choice to impact society!

Have a great Monday, muse over these things.

 

At the opening of the Zimbabwe library
At the opening of the Zimbabwe library

KA: Who is Bisila Bokoko? Country, ethnicity, language, family and place of residence.

I was born and raised in Spain‎ from Equatorial Guinean parents. I have lived in New York for the past fifteen years.

KA: Just like X-men origins, we are eager to understand the origin of your organization. What spurred you to found the Bisila Bokoko African Literacy Project?

In 2009 I made my first trip to Africa and I fall in love with the continent and its people. Several funny things happened during this trip that led me to become the Queen Development mother of a village near Kumasi called Kokofu. With this privilege, I was given a piece of land and I decided to build a library and give it to the people. This process started in 2010 and it is how BBALP was born.

KA: Kindly guide us through the processes; what does it take to found and fund such an enterprise?

BBALP took passion and the good will of a group of volunteers who helped me in this process. I was very lucky to have great friends who encouraged me to continue and when it came to funding I did it with my own resources and some donations.

KA: Big corporations are not keen on philanthropy just for its sake, or so I am told. How would you convince companies to invest in your project/vision?

I haven’t reached out to big corporations for funding. We have done several events in order to fundraise and that is how we have been operating so far.

Launching the library in Ghana
Launching the library in Ghana

KA: How many projects have you started/ accomplished thus far?

We have started and finished four libraries. They are located in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe. We are in the process of starting another one this year, but we don’t know where exactly yet. We highly depend on our project managers for location. ‎When we find the person willing to help us in the process we go for it. We have realized also that the best local partners for us are the schools in rural areas.

KA: How do you measure the impact of your work?

We know that for the children, books are a source of inspiration and they are enjoying the process of being able to have access to books in their communities. Partnering with schools give us the feedback we need to measure the impact of our work.

KA: You seem to be passionate about getting Africans to read; what feeds this passion, and how important really, is reading in the larger scheme of things?

I am passionate about reading because I am a living proof of how reading can shape your future and open your mind to opportunities. Without this connection to books, I won’t have been able to have connected with my roots. I have witnessed how a book can change people lives and why not share this gift with others?

bisila Bokoko 5

KA: What are the short and long-term goals of your organisation? Are there plans to expand into other countries?

Our short term goal is to ‎build one more library in 2015 and long term goal is to be all around the continent and be able to create a publishing company for books in local languages.

KA: It seems as though there is a proliferation of NGO’s, humanitarian organizations, etc in African countries; what are your thoughts on consolidating these bodies for maximum reach and effectiveness?

At BBALP we love to cooperate with other organizations and join forces. We believe that to work at our maximum capacity it is better to work with other groups. We have been very successful in Kenya following this model and in Zimbabwe as well.

The Kenyan library
The Kenyan library

KA: I once heard a female life coach charge her listeners to start up Foundations; what advice would you proffer to young women seeking to establish Foundations?

I will tell them to go ahead and always look for the reasons why you should do the work you would like to do. Focus only on your goals, the challenges will be there but focus should be on the goals. To overcome the challenges you need to always look forward, where you want to be. If you start focusing on the problem,than your motivation falls.

KA: This begs the question though; must one have a Foundation to create impact?

No, not at all. Everyone can create an impact if it is your personal goal to be a catalyst to change. You can do it in many different ways. There are so many remarkable people doing amazing work outside of foundations! It is a personal choice to impact society.

Bisila Bokoko 3

KA: What part does social media play in ensuring the mandate of your organization is carried out? 

Social media is the key for us, and a lot of volunteers reach out to us through social media. Our project has caught the attention of the public as well. Social media has been the ‎door opener for us.

KA: Kindly inspire an African in one sentence.

‎”Our future development and financial freedom relies in the arms of education.” I am a total ‘afro-optimist’.

 

© 2015 – 2017, Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya. All rights reserved.

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