On a recent early Friday morning, a minibus rolled through the crowded streets of Ho Chi Minh City. Aboard were volunteers and staff for The Library Project, some bright blue bookshelves, assorted globes, maps, educational posters and 500 brand new books for kids.
The Library Project is an international non-governmental organisation that donates high quality books and literacy materials to primary schools in rural China, Vietnam and Cambodia.
On the morning in question, The Library Project team was headed deep into the Mekong Delta to donate two reading corners to Hieu Thanh B Primary School in Vinh Long province.
After leaving Ho Chi Minh City, the minibus navigated a series of increasingly smaller roads, eventually reaching a remote country lane so narrow that the driver exited the van several times to check that bridges more suitable for bicycles and motorbikes would safely hold the larger vehicle.
When the team reached the rustic two-room school, the experienced volunteers jumped into action, assembling the shelves, stamping The Library Project’s logo into the front of the books, and keeping the kids entertained with activities while the reading corners were being made ready.
For the children, the break from the day’s routine was welcome, as was the presence of several guests. However, the real treat were the books – as soon as the corners were installed, each child was allowed to choose a book to read at his or her desk. After the buzzing excitement of a few minutes before, the room was suddenly silent as the kids began to devour their reads.
For long-time members of The Library Project team, this is nothing new. In fact, since the organisation’s founding in 2006, similar scenes have played out in more than 1,700 schools and orphanages, giving nearly 600,000 children access to 1 million books.
“Our programs have stayed razor focused on rural literacy though the donation of local language libraries,” said Tom Stader, the organisation’s founder. “This is what we do. This is what we will always do.”
Stader and the rest of The Library Project team believe that literacy is the single best way to fight poverty and inequality. While global literacy has seen great strides forward in recent decades, today 16 percent of the world’s population is illiterate.
The Library Project’s model is quite simple and very efficient. The in-country teams work with government officials and school districts to identify schools in need. They perform a pre-assessment to determine what set up will work best – for larger schools with a room dedicated to a library, reading rooms with 1,000 books, tables, chairs and comfy, padded places to sit are a good option. For a smaller school, like the one in Vinh Long Province, a reading corner installed in the classroom is a better fit.
The Library Project has a vision to support 1 million children by 2019. If you’d like to help reach this goal, there are lots of ways to get involved:
•Donate a reading room or reading corner. With The Library Project’s secure online giving tool, you can harness the power of your network to help raise money.
•Become a monthly donor. With recurring gifts, a small monthly gift makes a huge difference over the year.
•Make a one-time gift. Donating US$1 allows The Library Project to buy one book for a school. How many books would you like to buy? Visit library-project.org.