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Students set up camp for literacy

A tent the size of a small cabin seems starkly out of place in the quiet, carpeted entrance of the…

By Karen Moxley , in City , on March 11, 2009 Tags: , ,

A tent the size of a small cabin seems starkly out of place in the quiet, carpeted entrance of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at the University of British Columbia.

But from January 16th to 26th two UBC students camped out at the library, battling the 24-hour fluorescent lights and the all-night security guards in an attempt to raise money to build children’s libraries in India. Room to Read is the umbrella charity organizing the fundraiser, and this ten-day library stake-out is called Live-In for Literacy.

Irving Barber Learning Centre
The Learning Centre (Photo: UBC Library Graphics)

Avneet Johal, president of UBC’s Arts Undergraduate Society, and Seiya Hayashi, a Japanese exchange student, have been eating, sleeping, showering, and studying in the library for the past five days for what they both think is a good cause.

“Imagine the faces of children who have never seen pictures of space, cartoons, oceans and boats. Books provide ideas. When you read a book, you can travel as far as you want. You don’t need anything apart from words on a piece of paper,” said Johal.

Room to Read is an international charity that was established in 2000 by John Wood, a former executive of Microsoft China. Wood retired in mid-career to form a charity that is helping to bring literacy to the developing world.

The charity encourages literacy development from a grass-roots perspective. The charity builds schools and libraries, and also works with local writers and publishers to fund the creation and development of new, local-language books.

This year the Live-In for Literacy event is being staged at seven universities across Canada, including UBC. Collectively, they hope to raise $40 000 to build nine libraries in India. “I’m really looking forward to going to India to see the libraries when they’re finished,” said Johal.

But for now, he’s moved his life to the library.

Goodies for campers

As it turns out, campfires are not permitted in the Learning Centre so Johal and Hayashi have been forced to rely on friends and “perfect strangers” to bring them food.

Peanut butter and jam sandwiches, subs, pizza, and coffee are just some of the goodies being dropped off to these hungry campers.

“My professors have been really supportive,” said Hayashi, “and we’re living in a Learning Centre, so I think I may actually end up ahead in some of my classes.”

Hungry for social interaction, these two campers have been striking up conversations with strangers and passers-by.

“This project is about giving people in the developing world the opportunity and the resources to create something sustainable for themselves,” said Johal.

For more information, or to donate online, you can visit the Live-In for Literacy website.


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