From 2005 to 2008 we lived in Asia and thrived on what this life had to offer: diverse culture, cheap travel and multiple occasions for community service. And while living in Lexington had its local opportunities to serve, our overseas residency expanded our ability to make a difference globally. As a family created in part via international adoption, this was important to us.
One of the more memorable projects we worked on was a “community library build” at our daughter’s middle school. A group of students and parents collected, sorted, cataloged, and packed hundreds of new and used books which were then shipped free of charge by DHL to Malaysia’s sprawling state of Sabah located on the island of Borneo.
The students then flew to Kota Kinabalu, and trekked three hours inland to reach the Rungus Tribe, a remote indigenous village. Once there, they settled in for a week, communing with the local children while also setting up the village’s new library.
Now back in America for over two years, I have missed our chances at being “global citizens”. Yes we still “give back” by donating funds to worldwide non-profits, but I desire something more tangible. This school year I found this with the International Book Project. www.intlbookproject.org .
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One Wednesday a month I escorted five eager Montessori Middle School scholars to their service project at IBP. During our eight months together we have sorted bins of dusty donated books, entered ISBN barcodes, and boxed everything from children’s picture books to graduate textbooks. This tangible work has ended up in sea containers bound for the likes of Liberia and Lebanon, Guatemala and Ghana. Even our little purchases made in IBP’s small, but well stocked bookstore (located at the entrance to the warehouse) helped to drive IBP’s global good works by providing funding for shipments.
Located on Delaware Avenue directly across from Cowgirl’s Attic, International Book Project has been in existence 46 years. Originally begun by one woman who saw a need (Lexington’s Harriet Van Meter), IBP’s mission remains to increase global literacy. Via small “M-bags”(35 lb boxes), pallets (700 books) or large sea containers (holding 15,000 – 25,000 books) hundred of thousands of new and used books make their way each year to those in need. In addition, its “Books as Bridges” Project creates new global citizens among the Kentucky’s youth by connecting classrooms here with those in under-developed nations through a pen-pal system.Wednesday was our last volunteer day for this school year and we gathered in the conference room for cupcakes and punch. As I took in the whiteboard’s listing of shipments made this year and looked into the faces of the children featured in photos on the walls, all hugging dearly loved books, I realized something. I still miss Asia and all it has to offer. But our family does not have to travel to far-off countries to be good global citizens. All we have to do is head down to Delaware Avenue.