The Book Bus

Founded: 2007 by Tom Maschler

Sector: Non-Profit, Volunteer Projects

Location: Zambia, Malawi and Ecuador



Founded in 2007 by Tom Maschler, the Book Bus Foundation (a registered UK charity) aims to improve child literacy rates in Africa and South America by providing children with books and the inspiration to read them. The Book Bus provides a mobile library service for children from disadvantaged communities and families in Zambia, Malawi and Ecuador. Book Buses tour schools, hospitals and orphanages to promote reading and storytelling to children who would otherwise have little or no access to books. In addition to providing a mobile library service, onboard volunteer crews travel with the Book Buses and engage with children and teachers to promote reading. There are currently three Book Buses in operation: the original Book Bus based in Livingstone Zambia; a more expeditionary book bus working in Malawi, the UN Maheba Refugee Camp and the South Luangwa Valley in Zambia; and the Book Bus Ecuador working in 4 regions of the country: Amazon, Andes, southern coast and northern coast. Since its inception the Book Bus has donated over 39,000 books to schools in Africa and more than 8,000 to schools in South America.

Book Bus Volunteers

The Book Buses are crewed by volunteers who act as story tellers and reading assistants and work with primary schools and orphanages to promote literacy. Volunteers are drawn from a variety of backgrounds from trainee teachers to plumbers, with a wide spectrum of age groups represented including school age children travelling with parents to retired people. Volunteers spend between a couple of weeks and several months travelling with the Book Buses, working and camping. Volunteers pay a local fee to cover the cost of their stay including food, fuel, accommodation charges etc. They also pay a fee to support the running costs of the Book Bus Foundation and administration and organisation associated with its work. The Book Bus Foundation works in partnership with the company VentureCo Worldwide, a specialist travel company based in the UK which has a long history of organising and operating expeditions in Africa, Asia and South America. VentureCo's expertise in this area makes it an excellent partner for the Book Bus Foundation providing a 24/7 emergency backup service for all volunteers in the field, helping them with all travel arrangements which are protected by ATOL, with dedicated in-country teams. Current volunteer programmes and opportunities include:

  • Volunteering in Zambia: Working with disadvantaged children in schools near the Zambian town of Livingstone near Victoria Falls.
  • UNHCR Refugee Settlement Zambia: Working within a UNHCR refugee camp in North Western Zambia, helping refugee communities from Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • The Book Bus Safari: Provides an overland safari experience in Malawi and Zambia as the Book Bus travels to remote schools via national parks, lakes and festivals.
  • The Book Bus Malawi: The Book Bus in Malawi visits schools near Blantyre in the south of the country.
  • The Book Bus Ecuador: The Book Bus in Ecuador works with schools in the Amazon, Andes and coastal regions.

Library Development

As well as providing a mobile library and reading service the Book Bus encourages the use of local libraries both within and outside of school. The Book Bus Foundation helps by stocking libraries with fresh books and where there isn't a library works with communities to convert an existing building or even construct a new one. The Book Bus also assists in the training of librarians and the setting up of a lending scheme. In 2011 the Book Bus fundraised over £5000 for renovating and stocking 5 school libraries in Malawi and training a librarian for each.

A Book in Every Hand

The Book Bus runs an annual book donation appeal called a Book in Every Hand. In 2012 a total of 24,372 books were donated for distribution in Zambia.

School 2 School Links

Working with the British Council's "Global Schools Partnership" programme, the Book Bus Foundation supports the development of linkages between schools in Warwickshire and schools in Zambia. The Book Bus facilitates partner relationships between paired schools and a teacher exchange programme.


The Book Bus Foundation

c/o VentureCo Worldwide

Lockyer House

Paddon's Row


PL19 0HR

United Kingdom

You can also contact us by email:

or talk to us:

Tel: +44 (0)1822 616 191

Or send us a fax:

Fax: +44 (0) TBC


To download a more in-depth report on the Book Bus case study mapping its sustainable development and poverty alleviation impacts please follow the link below: