by Minh Thu & Hoang Nhan
|Page turners: Primary school students passionately read books donated by the Entertainment and Education Bookshelf project. — Photo courtesy of Tran Thi Kim Thoa|
HA NOI (VNS) — When the 10-year-old son of Nguyen Luong Nhuan overheard that his father was preparing to go to the library to receive new books, he quickly got out of bed and asked Nhuan if he could join him. The boy was eager to get his hands on new books and show them to his friends.
It’s been seven years since Nhuan became a volunteer for the Entertainment and Education Bookshelf, a programme that collects books to donate to poor children in rural areas. The first ‘bookshelf’ in Quang Dien District in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue was set up with just 200 books. They receive new books four times a year, and now there are 30 bookshelves across the whole district.
“I see the happiness in their eyes whenever new books arrive,” Nhuan said. “It’s a meaningful gift for them.
“The programme helps improve their education and provides healthy entertainment for children in poor areas like Quang Dien, where they have nothing to read but text books.”
The idea of launching the project came by chance when retired doctor Ho Dac Duy and his friends visited a small village on the border with Cambodia in the southern province of Long An about 20 years ago to go fishing.
They met a group of children huddled together with their heads in a book. Duy went up to them and saw they were reading a comic book titled Doraemon. One of their mothers had picked it up in the city while she was on a trip there.
Looking at the tattered book, Duy realised that the book must have been passed around every child in the village, and read many times.
The fishermen returned home haunted by the image of children gathering around a single book, so the next time they went fishing, they took lots of books with them.
“We were surprised and moved to see how happy the children were when we gave them the books,” Duy said. “For them, the books were better than sweets and toys.”
Since then, Duy and his friends have followed the motto: “Everyone has the right to read”. They collect educational books, comics, reference books, newspapers and magazines.
Before they set up a bookshelf, they look carefully at where books are most needed, and a reliable place to manage them.
After 20 years, the project has brought more than 700 bookshelves to rural areas across the country and one in Ethiopia.
“It is only a humble gift for poor children. Two hundred books and one wooden bookshelf costs barely US$100, but we know that the spiritual value is priceless,” Duy said.
Tran Thi Kim Thoa, general director of the programme, agreed. “What we collect today will help change children’s lives in the future,” she said.
Thoa was born in a poor village so she understands clearly the necessity of books for children. She remembers how she and her friends were thirsty for books but they didn’t have money to buy them, and even when they had, there weren’t any bookshops in the area.
At the age of 70-80, Duy and his friends have found the next generation to help run the project. They are young and active volunteers like Thoa and Nhuan. They’ve also invited celebrities to get involved such as translator Uong Xuan Vy, writer Duong Binh Nguyen, rocker Pham Anh Khoa and Miss Tourism 2008 Ngoc Diem.
The new blood has launched an ambitious programme to collect 10,000 books for poor children in the central province of Quang Nam. The books will be distributed in 25 villages where children do not have access to bookshops or libraries.
“The number may sound like a lot, but if we can find 1,000 benefactors who are willing to donate 10 books each, we’ll soon reach it,” said Thoa.
“We visited children in these districts and realised the incredible effort they make to go to school.
“Regardless of sun or rain, they have to travel across mountains, through streams and along rough roads just to get an education.
“They go to school aware that bad weather could damage roads, bridges and crops, and their families could lose their livelihoods.
“That’s why we want to bring books to them so they can learn new things, expand their horizons and believe in a brighter future.”
Benefactors in Ha Noi, HCM City and Quang Nam can find out where to donate books at www.10000quyensach.org or visit their book festival at Le Van Tam Park, HCM City on August 24. — VNS