Copley couple spreads the written word
The Bromleys use the two-car garage
of their Copley home to store the thousands of books
that are donated to them from April to October each
By Kathleen Folkerth
COPLEY — Hilda and Kirt Bromley have been feeding the hungry in Africa for 10 years — not with food, but with information.
The Copley couple are the founders of the Books for Africa Library Project, for which they collect thousands of books each year and ship them to Ghana, Hilda’s birthplace, and create community libraries.
As of this year, the Bromleys have established 37 libraries. In contrast, the Ghana Library Board, the country’s national library system, operates 52 libraries.
“When they come in and see all those books, they are amazed,” Hilda said. “It makes them so happy.”
“They see books as real treasures,” Kirt said. “For Americans to donate, many are deeply touched by that.”
The Bromleys met 40 years ago, when Kirt was in Ghana with the Peace Corps. In 1969, they married and came to the United States. For a two-year period in the 1970s, they lived again in Ghana, then moved back permanently to the Akron area in 1977.
Kirt, 61, worked as a schoolteacher, most recently at Margaret Park Elementary School, retiring in 2002.
Hilda, 60, had worked as a nurse in local nursing homes, such as Rockynol Retirement Community, but retired when she found out she had a brain tumor in 1996 and needed surgery.
It was her illness that inspired Hilda to do something for the people of her homeland. She said she felt that God was telling her to start the project.
In 1997, the Bromleys collected
3,000 books and donations to pay for the shipping to
Ghana. They set up that first library in Kukurantumi,
Hilda’s hometown. By 1999, they set up their nonprofit
organization to continue the project.
Their efforts have grown considerably. This year, the couple set up four new libraries and oversaw the arrival of more than 30,000 donated books, which were distributed to the four libraries and two institutions.
In addition, the couple distributed more than 100 pairs of eyeglasses donated by Akron residents, and some medical equipment their daughter, an oriental medicine practitioner, donated. They also gave out 4,000 rosaries to churches in the regions where the libraries were set up.
The Bromleys started the project
to help the people of Ghana, but there were other
“The first part of this
mission is to establish libraries, but we also want
to give an avenue for Americans to reach out and help
other people,” Kirt said.
The response from Northeast Ohio
has been positive. One day last week, the Bromleys spent
the morning making a trip to Ashland University to pick
up the school’s annual donation. They returned
to their home with their two vehicles full of boxes
People come to them, too. They
said at one point a person from Genesee, N.Y., drove
here with a car full of books for the project.
“They were touched and
they wanted to do something,” Hilda said.
The Bromleys have organized the
project into a yearly schedule. They start from scratch
each year in April, when they begin accepting donations
and filling up their two-car garage. The books are then
catalogued according to the Dewey Decimal System, thanks
to the help of volunteers who assist the couple. Then
the first week in October, a 40-foot-long shipping container
pulls into their driveway, and the books are loaded
“It’s quite a sight,”
The container takes six to eight
weeks to arrive in Ghana. Meanwhile, the Bromleys close
up their house and set out to meet the shipment, leaving
the first week of November. They have a warehouse in
Kukurantumi — actually, their home there
— from where the books are distributed.
They spend the next few months
helping to set up new libraries and distributing books.
They also hold in-services for the library staffs to
help them in the operation of their libraries.
In April, the Bromleys return
to Copley, and their work begins again. This year they
returned April 18, and by April 20 they went to pick
up their first donation of the year.
Throughout the year, the couple
receives requests from communities in Ghana that are
interested in the program. The organization has been
set up so there are certain conditions a community must
meet in order to receive the Bromleys’ help.
“They have to have a building,
shelves, electricity, benches and tables and have a
paid librarian,” Hilda said.
They must also set up a board
of trustees to oversee the library.
The Bromleys have expanded their
mission in recent years to address a growing problem
in Ghana — abuse of alcohol and drugs. They said
the problem in that part of the world is partly to blame
on American culture.
“Growing up in Ghana,
older people used to drink, but
it wasn’t a problem,” Hilda said. “Now
it’s the young people. They look old but they
are still young. There’s such hopelessness.”
The availability of illegal drugs
like cocaine, heroin and marijuana also has been a growing
“They tell me, ‘We
are imitating you Americans,’” Hilda said.
“People think it’s all right because they
see it in the movies or on TV.”
“The image of the West
used to be cowboys and gangsters,” Kirt said.
“Now it’s driving cars recklessly and taking
The couple has brought information
about Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to Ghana and held seminars
on alcohol and drug abuse at its in-services. At one
workshop this year, two new AA groups were begun, Kirt
said. The Bromleys also are starting up a treatment
center for alcoholics in Kukurantumi.
The couple celebrated the 10th
year of the project with activities in Ghana. Now they
plan to celebrate in Akron at their annual fund-raising
event, which will take place May 19 at 5:30 p.m. at
the social hall at St. Bernard Church in Downtown Akron.
A buffet dinner will be served, and Touch of Spring,
which features Kirt as a member, will provide music.
The couple also will show slides of their most recent
trip to Ghana and discuss their efforts. Admission to
the event is free, but donations will be collected.
All money raised for the project
goes directly to shipping the books to Ghana, Kirt said.
The organization is run on about $25,000 a year. The
Bromleys pay for their own transportation and food on
their trips, he added.
The people of Ghana have been
appreciative to the Bromleys for their work, but the
couple themselves are happy that they can do what they
“There’s a deep amazement
in the work because God’s spirit seems to be moving
through it all,” Kirt said. “People are
coming to us. They say, ‘I want to be a part of
it. I want to touch other people through it.’”
“We are very grateful,”
For more information on the Books
for Africa Library Project, contact the Bromleys at
(330) 666-6816 or at kirt
also have a Web site at www.forafricalibrary.org.
Hilda and Kirt Bromley began the Books for Africa Library Project in 1997 and have since established 37 libraries in Hilda’s homeland of Ghana. Photos: Ken Crisafi