Three years ago, Turlock resident Ike Essuman asked for the public’s help in paying to ship thousands of donated books to West Africa, where reading materials are hard to come by. Today, those books are in the hands of children and adults alike in Nigeria, helping them learn to read and opening a world of opportunity in the process.
“I feel extremely glad. I can’t even describe my feelings because these books will have an impact on a lot of people,” Essuman said. “People are going to be able to read now.”
Essuman was born and raised in Ghana as one of nearly 30 siblings, and immigrated to the United States about 40 years ago. His passion for reading, learning and helping others led him to start Books and More Education Foundation, which over the past decade has sent numerous shipments of books to those in West Africa who need them most. The most recent shipment will impact the area’s youth in ways many don’t realize, Essuman said.
“I loved the library when I was growing up, and as soon as I got home from school I would go there and read and read and read,” he said. “Because of books and because I was able to enlighten my mind, I had a strong desire to come to the United States ever since I was little. When I got here, I knew I could help others.”
Thanks to generous donations over the course of four years from Stanislaus State, Friends of the Turlock Public Library, Ballico Elementary School, Julien Elementary School and Turlock High School, Essuman’s foundation Books and More was able to collect enough books to fill three, 40-foot containers. Early last year, those books were loaded onto the 53-foot trailer of a semi-truck which first traveled to Houston, Texas, then was placed on a ship and sent to Nigeria. In total, it cost nearly $10,000 to send the books to West Africa, which was raised through community support.
The books found their new home in Nigeria thanks to Essuman’s daughter, who met a woman named Olakunbi Dokun while they were both living in Southern California. Dokun’s father, Oloruntele Dokun, had recently built a library in the rural community of Ijomu Oro in Kwara State, which is in the southwestern region of Nigeria.
When Dokun heard about Books and More, she immediately contacted Essuman and arranged for the Turlock books to be shipped to her father’s library, Awiye Memorial Library. The library was built from the ground up by her father on the plot where her grandfather’s home once stood, and Dokun’s father had a passion for ending illiteracy in West Africa as well.
Since the books arrived at the Awiye Memorial Library, Essuman has spoken with Dokun and her family, he said.
“They were so happy and thanked us for all of the hard work, especially the community of Turlock,” Essuman said. “They extend their greetings and love to the city of Turlock…what the city did for them, they can’t describe.”