Last year's International Literacy Day helped me spread an important message and bolstered support for the Books For Cameroon project. I received lots of positive responses on my post as to why I started the project and why I value literacy. Here we are one year later, and the project lives on. I could not be more proud of my replacement Cristina and the efforts of RIDEV and other Peace Corps volunteers for keeping it strong.
As you probably could tell from recent posts, I already really miss Cameroon and my time there. I have been reflecting a great deal and today I thought about the what felt like an insane project at the time. We built or improved upon over 30 libraries and brought 23,000+ books to Cameroon. That is so crazy! Yet, in the grand scope of things, that is a drop in the bucket. Think about how many books are held at your local library? Easily over 20,000. And how many libraries are in your neighborhood alone?
Being back in the U.S., I see people around me taking things for granted all the time. Heck, even I myself often take things for granted. The ability to read is simply one of them. I was thinking about the children whom I taught, and couldn't follow along the words with their fingers as I read them. Even adults, who struggle to read business handouts that I gave while I effortlessly read them in my fourth language.
We talk about development efforts from all different angles all the time - how to improve economic growth, health, nutrition, anti-corruption, etc. The most sustainable ways to development is to motivate individuals to help themselves. If they can't read, how far, how effective and how accurately could the information spread?
I love to read, though I have less time all the time to really enjoy a good book. I still crave getting lost in a great plot or being inspired by a biography. After all, reading is the cheapest form of entertainment. I seldom know an avid reader who is not opened minded about the world. Tonight, I was horrified to hear that the Koran burning pastor has never even READ the Koran. Has no one ever taught him not to judge a book by its cover? No matter who you are, burning another religion's sacred text makes you a disgrace for mankind.
I hope by raising awareness on literacy and importance of not just skimming pages on your computer, but to actually sit down to read a book, citizens of this world will have a greater understanding for one another. Take some time to learn about different initiatives that promote literacy in your area, or to follow the progress of my Books For Cameroon project at http://www.facebook.com/booksforcameroon