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24 September 2014
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10 to 16 year old prisoner in Sierra Leone
Teenage prisoner in Sierra Leone

Student's mission to Africa

Alexander McLean isn't your average Nottingham student. He's been spending his spare time visiting African prisons, delivering 34,000 books.

During the summer of 2006 many students would have been living it up on Europe's beaches. But not University of Nottingham law student Alexander McLean. He was taking 34,000 books to prisons in Nairobi, Kenya.

"It's very difficult seeing 10-11 year-olds in prison for committing crimes like loitering."
Alexander McLean

Alexander's work in African prisons began in 2004 during his gap year.

He gained permission to visit the Luzira maximum security prison in Uganda, where he encountered prisoners with diseases that were left untreated. The visit changed his life.

African Prison Project

This summer Alexander turned his attentions to Kamiti Prison in Nairobi, where he had read stories of disease, overcrowding and gang rape.

A prison library
A prison library transformed by Alexander McLean

Alexander decided to refurbish the prison library, where prisoners could read, study and find hope for the future.

He founded the African Prison Project - collecting thousands of books and raising £10,000.

"The prisons are particularly difficult places. They are overcrowded and AIDS is a problem.

"It can be quite challenging. But it's also very rewarding."

In Nairobi's maximum security prisons the inmates are not all murderers and rapists as Alexander explains:

UK Charity Volunteer Of The Year
Alexander McLean: UK Charity Volunteer Of The Year

"It's very difficult seeing 10-11 year-olds in prison for committing crimes like loitering."

Many people Alexander's age wouldn't dream of attempting such a task. Alexander feels his efforts enrich his life:

"Life's precious, no one knows how long they've got... and this is, in my own small way, a way that I can make a bit of a difference to the lives of people who have nothing."

Charity Volunteer of the Year

Alexander recently received recognition for his prison work when he became the UK Charity Volunteer of the Year. HRH Prince Edward presented him with his award.

last updated: 19/12/06
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