Dan Harrington, the cofounder of Books for the Barrios, helps the nonprofit distribute millions of educational materials to impoverished children.
Why did you start delivering books to war-torn countries? We saw poverty in a former colony and decided that we’d observed the aid and they were missing the mark. We built schools, found funding to provide teacher development and give them math materials and books. It’s been very successful.
Why start in the Philippines? I worked in the Department of Defense for 30 years and at a time of extreme dislocation and poverty. We saw children going into famine situations. As a family we lent our energies while living there to organize and fix up schools. But we’ve now spread to Afghanistan and … Iraq.
How many books have you delivered so far? We’ve provided 5,000 volumes to impoverished children and schools. Each year we send out 600,000 volumes to libraries we’ve built around the world.
Why are you so successful? Because we tell them the books are okay to use. Government agencies that send books tell them that if the inventory is lost or damaged, those using the books will have to pay for it. The thought of having to replace those brand new books is a lot of money to these teachers. We don’t hold them responsible.