Press Release

January, 1998
CONTACT: Tania Vitvitsky, Sabre Foundation (617) 868-3510


In memory of its former board member, the late Michael W. Christian, the first American lawyer to be admitted to the bar of the then East African Federation of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, the Sabre Foundation is launching a series of sub-Saharan book donations beginning with shipments to Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia. To highlight this program, Sabre will host a dinner in Washington D.C. on March 4th with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, USIA Director Joseph Duffey and Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan as speakers.

An alumnus of Harvard College ('60) and Harvard Law School ('64), Michael Christian was awarded a fellowship after law school by the Sloan School of Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which took him to Nairobi, Kenya, to serve as assistant legal secretary of the East Africa Common Services Organization.

After returning to the U.S., Michael Christian maintained his interest in international development work. His career culminated in the presidency of Boston Safe Deposit and Trust Company. In addition to his work for Sabre Foundation, Mr. Christian served as a director or trustee of the Massachusetts Port Authority, The Atlantic Monthly, World Peace Foundation, The John F. Kennedy Library, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Emerson Hospital, the Boston Ballet, and the Wang Center.

In line with Mr. Christian's dedication to development for future generations of East Africans, Sabre's shipments to Africa put priority on young people. Its partner in Tanzania, the Mufindi Educational Trust, received a wide range of elementary and high school textbooks as well as World Book reference books and encyclopedias. The Ghana Book Trust, obtaining its second shipment from Sabre to date, requested a range of 11 subject areas to meet the pressing needs of university students. Sabre's broad inventory also allowed for book selections appropriate to particular growth sectors of each country's economy, such as agriculture in Tanzania and mining in Ghana.

Learning of the impending shipment to the Ghana Book Trust, Nii Quaynor, president of ISOC-Ghana, the Ghana chapter of the Internet Society, requested that Sabre "include as many copies of computer, telecom and networking books as you can in the shipment for us. . . . books are in such short supply that we will have good use of all of them." Sabre responded by selecting approximately 20 copies each of 20 recent computer titles, as well as issues of the last several years of more than half a dozen computer magazines, including Internet World and Wired.

In conjunction with Books for Africa, Inc., Sabre established a partnership with the Kasama Rotary Club of Zambia, making it possible to ship 13,151 books valued at close to $400,000 to that country. Selecting books from over 15 publishers in Sabre's inventory, the Rotary Club tailored the shipment to the needs of elementary and high school students primarily, as well as students at the college level. The shipment is due to reach Zambia via the port city of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in late January. Next on Sabre's agenda is a shipment for the neighboring country of Malawi. With this shipment, the total value of book donations in the first months of the Michael Christian Program will come to over one million dollars.

Sabre is currently planning a program for the Historically Black Universities (HBUs) of South Africa with a focus on their law libraries. During the apartheid era, funding for law faculties was among the weakest; most law libraries possess one or two sets of law reports -- hardly adequate, for example, for the 1,600 law students at the University of the North. Due to overcrowding at the universities, libraries meant to serve 5,000 students in some instances serve 15,000, and are the sole sources of required texts for most students.

In November 1997, Steering Committee member John Archibald visited Liberia to assess the feasibility of a book donation program to rebuild schools and universities in this war-torn country. During his visit, Mr. Archibald identified a prospective partner organization in Monrovia.

The Sabre Foundation, a non-profit in Cambridge, Mass., began its first project in sub-Saharan Africa in 1976, when Michael Christian was an active board member. Its initiatives, exploring free trade zone development and equatorial space launch facilities, were ultimately spun off into a consulting firm that advised in the design and operation of several African free trade zone sites.

The foundation's book donation activities, originally begun in Eastern Europe, were first extended into Africa in 1991 at the request of the Kenya Book Foundation, USIA and the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. Sabre's unique expertise in advanced college, professional and scholarly texts, was called upon to build collections in Kenya's rapidly expanding university system. A partnership with Peace Corps the same year led to a continent-wide distribution program.

In 1992, the Foundation began its ongoing collaboration with Minneapolis-based Books for Africa whose director Dr. Robert Kowalczyk introduced Sabre to the Project Implementation Unit in Uganda which became a book distribution partner. Also in 1992 a 20-foot container of more than 9,000 books was sent by Sabre to Eritrea through the sponsorship of Grassroots International, a Boston-based non-profit doing development work through people-to-people initiatives.

Sabre Foundation's Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia shipments were made possible in part by funding from Books for Africa, and by an anonymous donor. Other funding sources include the United States Information Agency, and U.S. Agency for International Development's Ocean Freight Reimbursement Program.

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