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Turlocker heads effort to fight African illiteracy
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Turlock resident Ike Essuman prepares to ship donated books from Turlock to a new library in Nigeria. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal

In the villages throughout West Africa, school books are hard to come by, and over the past decade, Books and More Education Foundation has sent numerous shipments of books to those in Ghana who need them most. In an effort to both break the area’s cycle of poverty and increase the quality of life through education, the foundation is now preparing to ship a massive haul of books out of Turlock and into Nigeria – the culmination of an effort years in the making.

“The schools don’t have any books and the libraries are gone,” said the foundation’s founder, Turlock resident Ike Essuman.

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 learning and helping others led him to start Books and More, and with the help of generous donations, the foundation has been able to provide books to West African youth.

On Friday afternoon, crews were busy loading the 53-foot trailer of a semi-truck with thousands of books collected over the past four years. The three 40-foot containers that were loaded into the trailer included donations from the Friends of the Turlock Public Library, Ballico Elementary School, Julien Elementary School, Turlock High School and Stanislaus State, said Essuman.

The cost of shipping the books to West Africa is what caused the delay in their departure – it costs $5,500 to ship the books, and another $3,500 to cover the costs of labor to transport, pick up and load the books. Now that Books and More has raised the funds necessary to send the books, thanks to several generous donors, the truckload will first travel to Houston, Texas, where the boxes will then be placed on a ship and sent to Nigeria.

The books found their new home in Nigeria thanks to Essuman’s daughter, who connected with Olakunbi Dokun while living in Southern California. Dokun’s father, Oloruntele Dokun, 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.

“My dad built this library from the ground up, on the plot where his father’s home once stood,” said Dokun. “He wanted to address the illiteracy issue in Nigeria.”

Her father’s mantra, Dokun shared, is that the library is “for the benefit of all that are studious who seek knowledge in order to take part in a severe contest between an intelligence which presses forward and a timid, unworthy ignorance that obstructs progress.”

“It’s a miracle,” said Dokun. “When I told my father about it, he was in awe of how the connection happened.”

In three months, the shipment of books will arrive at the Awiye Memorial Library, said Essuman.

“They will be put to good use,” he said.