Dear Friends of Sabre,
Sabre’s operations expanded substantially in 1999. In our Book Donation Program, Sabre sent 32 shipments - nearly half a million books, with a fair market value of almost $18 million - to 22 different countries, nine of which were countries that previously did not have Sabre programs. In volume this represents a 40 percent increase over 1998.
But volume is not our objective; making a difference is. There are two book programs of which I am particularly proud.
Sabre has worked in Bulgaria since 1990, and altogether we have sent 20 containers of books to this formerly Stalinist but now rapidly developing country. In the spring of 1999 we shipped to Bulgaria six containers of medical textbooks and CD-ROMs valued at nearly $10 million. Our local partner, the Sofia-based Center for the Study of Democracy, in turn oversaw the distribution of these books and CD-ROMs to hospitals, research institutes, universities and colleges throughout the country. These materials will have a substantial impact on health care in Bulgaria. Our donor-publisher, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, deserves our deepest gratitude for their act of generosity.
The other shipment I would like to highlight is the 8,500 books we sent to Somalia, a country that for some years has lacked a functioning central government. Funded in part by the United Nations Development Program, these books form the core of a new university's library.
Our work in Somalia was initiated largely due to the efforts of Abdillahi Hashi Abib, a Somali engineer living in Kansas, who approached Sabre in 1998 with his dream of helping the newly founded Amoud University. As was the case in the formative years of Sabre's Book Donation Program in the mid-1980s, when Eastern European émigré groups helped us enormously, the African diaspora in the United States has played a significant role as we have expanded our activities on that continent.
Sabre's Internet Training Workshops Program began to take shape in 1999, and our activities accelerated as the year progressed. In the first half of 1999, 15 trainees visited our Training Center in Cambridge; in the second half, 25 trainees (already in 2000 through June, we have had 36 more!). In addition, Sabre staff members recently traveled to Nairobi to conduct a "training of trainers" workshop for East African health professionals from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
Our Internet Training Workshops Program received its substantial two-year seed funding from an anonymous donor. This donor's generosity has enabled Sabre to establish firm grounding in the increasingly important world of information technology, upon which we intend to build as we broaden our sources of financing for this important program. We are most grateful.
Much has been written about the "digital divide". Indeed, the Group of Eight Summit Conference in Okinawa in July 2000 declared the "dot force" initiative, to bring the Internet to, and to use it to promote health and education in, developing countries.
There is much debate and increasingly heated controversy as to whether such advanced technologies are appropriate for countries where many still cannot read. The strength of Sabre's approach is that we make resources available in both printed and electronic format. We deliberately are agnostic on the books vs. computers issue. Sabre helps individuals; what matters is each person’s ability to use information. For Sabre, this means that in a country like Tanzania, which has an annual income per capita of $170, Sabre has an active book program providing materials ranging from basic readers to medical and other graduate school-level texts. At the same time, eight individuals from Tanzania, including students, a lawyer, an engineer and several small business people, came to our Cambridge Training Center to participate in Sabre's Internet Training Workshops.
I believe that my great-grandchildren will read books printed on paper. But my Sabre work has taught me that it is dangerous to prejudge levels of sophistication in even the poorest countries.
Sabre's staff has seen some changes. Our long-time Reference Librarian Becky Schneider left us to join Boston-based The Community Builders, Inc. Program Officer John Emery has joined the Foreign Service, and shortly will be assigned to Ecuador. Each will be missed. New to the Sabre team are Program Officer Ray Gillespie, who joins us from Motivforce PLC in the U.K., Press and Program Development Officer John Tepedino, who joins us from Congressman Rick Lazio's office, and in the Sabre warehouse, Bill Hantzis, who joins us from the Middlesex Building & Wrecking Company.
I would like to close by honoring the memory of Arthur Dubow (pictured at left). Arthur served as a Director of Sabre from 1983 to 1996, including service on our Executive Committee. Arthur remained a friend and supporter of Sabre until his unexpected death in December 1999. Arthur's wisdom and generosity, and his keen interest in both our Science and Philosophy programs, set a standard for us all.
Thank you for your interest in Sabre, and for your support!