At the start of each school year, professors clean their offices in anticipation of the fall semester, filing away old exams, completing reports and syllabuses, and clearing space on their shelves for new books. The used books they clear away are often collected by the English Department’s local chapter of the International English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta, for book sale events that raise funds for chapter activities and service projects. Regular book sales, sometimes themed for particular seasons, and book donations are part of Sigma Tau Delta’s goal of sharing books with everyone they can. According to Texas State’s webpage for the organization, Sigma Tau Delta claims one of its goals is to “exhibit high standards of academic excellence; and serve society by fostering literacy.” One of the specific service projects the Honors organization conducts to accomplish this goal is their book donation drive for the University of Lomé in the West African country of Togo.
Sigma Tau Delta donates yearly shipments to the University of Lomé, located in Togo’s capital city. English major and Sigma Tau Delta’s current Vice President, Caitlyn Wells, described her commitment to the project as well as her passion for sharing books and the joy of reading, stating the core purpose of the project is to “spread the love of books.” Wells explains that, for Sigma Tau Delta, “the main goal was to bring all of these English nerds together,” and that a group of people sharing their love of books with each other makes this particular project special and powerful. Honored to participate in this exchange, Wells notes that the students at the University of Lomé “are striving to get an education and if we could be just a small part of that, it’s cool.”
The donation program began with Dr. Komi Begedou, a faculty member from the University of Lomé who conducted research as a Fulbright Scholar in the English Department at Texas State from 2014 to 2015. Dr. Begedou explains the book drive program began in 2016 through coordination with his Texas State research mentors Dr. Elvin Holt and Professor Steve Wilson, along with the student members of STD, and has continued every year since, allowing University of Lomé’s students to “make good use of [the books] for their Master’s and Ph.D. research works.” Dr. Begedou and Sigma Tau Delta’s faculty advisors, currently Dr. Laura L Ellis-Lai and Mr. Chris Margrave, work together to coordinate the collection, packaging, and shipment of books from Sigma Tau Delta.
When Sigma Tau Delta prepared to ship donated books to Togo this past cycle, they had the opportunity to communicate with the graduate literature students there by exchanging videos through Facebook, insuring they could select books to better meet the Togolese students’ literature needs. The University of Lomé’s students requested texts on topics from civil rights, African studies, literary criticism, and dystopian novels to enhance their American Literature library, which was initiated in 2017 with the large first shipment of books from Texas State and officially opened by the David Gilmour, at the time the US Ambassador to Togo. These videos preceded the current COVID-19 pandemic, which suspended the organization’s operations and preparation of their book shipment. Sigma Tau Delta asks students and faculty who may have slightly used books they wish to donate to set these texts aside until the Fall 2020 semester, when operations will resume.
Dr. Begedou explains that a large donation this year would not only benefit the University of Lomé, but the University of Kara, the only other University in Togo, noting also that he “prays and hopes that this project will continue to the benefit of faculty and students in the English Department at UL.” Anyone who donates a book to STD makes a significant impact in improving the education of a student in the English Department in Togo while helping this wonderful relationship between Texas State and Togo continue for many years to come.
– Kennedy Farrell, English Major