This is an amazing story and such a wonderful way to contribute to one’s country and charity. Mr Innocent Chiasaokwu, I too, like your Nigerian children will, thank you for giving the gift of reading to people who hunger for education and joy in their lives.
1-man charity sends 30,000 books to Nigeria
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An underground Ottawa charity — made up of one man and his own money — is about to feed the imaginations of Nigerian children with 30,000 books and magazines.
Innocent Chiasaokwu, who was born in the poor African country, is motivated by a belief that befits his first name.
“You don’t have to be rich to make a difference,” Chiasaokwu says. “If you believe there are things you can do to better the life of people and you believe in it — you will achieve it.”
And now he has proven that true.
Chiasaokwu, 42, left Nigeria 10 years ago and now works as a nursing assistant at the Perley Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre in Ottawa.
Five years ago, he visited his homeland and was shocked by the shortage of books in the schools and libraries.
When he returned home, he decided he was going to help children in Nigeria by providing books to help them learn.
“I find that if one is educated you have more choices in your life,” he said. “Kids going into prostitution, child labour — I think this is because they are not educated and they become prey for anyone higher than them.”
Chiasaokwu began visiting garage sales and thrift stores, buying books and magazines a few bags at a time.
He stored them first in his own apartment then a storage locker that he rented.
Sometimes he rented a van and hired people to help him.
And now, Chiasaokwu has spent his entire savings of $5,000 to buy those books passage to Lagos, Nigeria, in a shipping container.
After a 67-day journey, they will arrive and his friends will distribute them to libraries, schools and poor families there.
During all those years of work, almost no one knew what Chiasaokwu was doing, until a co-worker happened to hear about it.
Hilary Kemsley, a communications manager at the veterans’ health centre, was amazed.
“He’s doing it all out of his own pocket,” she said.
She decided it was time he got some publicity and she contacted the CBC. A story aired on Nov. 17 about Chiasaokwu’s work, and since then he has been inundated with responses from people across the country.
“It’s been quite overwhelming because I get e-mails from Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal,” he said.
Among those who wrote are Albert and Margaret Smith, two retired teachers from Carleton Place, a small community near Ottawa. The Smiths are raising money through their church to help with the shipping costs.
Margaret Smith said she was inspired by Chiasaokwu’s work.
“We’re both teachers. We rely on books. I like his attitude,” she said.
Chiasaokwu said he doesn’t need any more books right now, but is in the process of setting up a trust fund to help fund shipping and other costs.