All it took was one magazine article for Aaron Seidel to quickly realize what he had to do. During one of his classes last spring at the
Cook Honors College, Seidel’s professor, Stacey Patrick, passed out an article about the conditions in parts of Nigeria, where insurgent group Boko Haram had taken over part of the African nation.
Although the group eventually was pushed back by national forces, a lot of damage was done, especially to schools.
The article stated that Nigerian children in those areas needed supplies so they could go to school, and Seidel knew he had to help.
“I was moved by the story,” said Seidel, a senior from Cleveland who is a double major in
applied mathematics. “I realized that I had the opportunity to help people that most of the world turns away from.”
Seidel looked around the IUP campus and realized there were a lot of textbooks not being used because they were outdated or no longer needed, and he thought maybe he could round up some of them and ship them to Nigeria. It would be a start, he thought, and maybe it would make a small difference.
“I’ve always been attracted to those kind of stories,” he said. “So I just wanted to do something good.”
Seidel started picking up textbooks from faculty members who had a surplus. But then the “something good” that Seidel wanted to do quickly turned into a major project.
He asked the organizers of the Newman Center Book Sale if he could have whatever was left over from their annual event, and they agreed. Word of mouth started to spread across campus, and before he knew it, Seidel had run out of room to put his book collection. He got a storage shed to hold the ever-growing pile of boxed books, and he kept scouring the area for more texts.
“I had a moment of panic thinking about the scope of things,” he said. “But when opportunity presents itself, you have to rise to the challenge.”
That’s what Seidel has done. His project has grown so large that he has created a non-profit group, Books 4 Hope, and he’s been working to find more resources to help as the project has grown. He’s found a group in Nigeria willing to take his collection — now numbering upwards of 50,000 books — and he’s received the help of McNaughton Moving and Storage, based in Indiana, which will ship the books to a warehouse in Georgia, where they will be prepared for shipment across the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s not a cheap, or easy, job but Seidel is working to make it happen. He’s soliciting donations through his website, with the goal of raising $10,000, the expected cost to ship the books overseas. Seidel said Books for Africa and McNaughton Moving and Storage have helped defray the cost of shipping the books. To help raise money, Seidel is going to be holding a basket raffle, and he’s seeking individuals and groups to donate baskets to be raffled.
“I want this to be a collaborative project — for the student body at IUP and in Indiana — to help build a stronger bond here in the community that does something good for the world.”
Seidel would like to continue the project in years to come, and he hopes to visit Nigeria and help wherever he can. He wants to help those who can’t help themselves get back on their feet, and he’s starting with books — a lot of them.
For more information about Aaron Seidel’s project, visit www.books4hope.weebly.com, or send e-mail to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.