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Monday September 2, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Monday September 2, 2013 MYT 8:03:56 AM
by angelin yeoh
Alia Nabilla (second from right) and fellow volunteers preparing to hand out books to the girls at Rumah Limpahan Kasih in Bandar Puteri Puchong, Selangor.
Books for Children is a real-life fairy tale for displaced youths.
THE excitement among the children at Rumah Limpahan Kasih is palpable as the volunteers cart in boxes of books, led by Alia Nabilla and Ilyana Nazirah. Books for Children (BFC) is in session and its founders, Alia and Ilyana, are eager to find out if the children at the welfare home in Puchong, Selangor, are making any progress in reading since their first visit a week ago.
BFC started in February this year as a group on Facebook. Alia and Ilyana, both 20, met through a mutual friend in SMK Taman Tun Dr Ismail five years ago. Over time, their passion for community service drew them closer.
“Last year, we became really good friends during our volunteering sessions at Pertiwi Soup Kitchen,” says Ilyana, a college student. The wide-eyed lass is also involved in Titian Kasih, a shelter for displaced single mothers, youths and children, while Alia has worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Due to their active involvement with displaced youths and children, Alia and Ilyana strongly believe that education should be made accessible to everyone.
“Every child has the right to education. We want to reach out to displaced youths and children to ensure they have a proper education,” says Alia, a first year law student at Universiti Teknologi Mara.
Prompted by their strong conviction, Alia and Ilyana set up Books for Children.
“We love books and children,” says Ilyana, adding that BFC is a great channel for them to share their love for books with children. The volunteering initiative aims to cultivate a reading habit among displaced youths and children.
“BFC is a mini project started by two individuals to integrate two missions: to spread awareness of education, and to bring the community closer together as more people get involved in the project.
Alia says BFC functions as a team to provide reading materials and assistance to those who need them, regardless of social status.
“Literacy is a very important skill that every child should acquire. We’re focusing on the underprivileged because they have limited access to resources like books and learning materials.”
At the moment, BFC has about 350 books in its collection – ready to be shared or given away to those who need them. Alia and Ilyana spearheaded a book collection drive in the Klang Valley early this year to get their project off the ground.
“People got in touch with us via our Facebook group and arranged for pick-ups,” says Ilyana.
BFC has books from Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton, as well as children’s classics like The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes and Disney stories.
“Sometimes we receive a lot of books or magazines that we can’t share with children. We sell the books for RM1-RM5 and use the profits to buy age-appropriate books,” says Ilyana.
During Ramadan in July, the girls held a charity car boot sale in Shah Alam, Selangor. Proceeds from the sales went to needy students in SMK TTDI Jaya and children at Rumah Limpahan Kasih.
Books for Children is not just about collecting and giving away books. Alia and Ilyana go the extra mile to make sure the children make good use of the reading materials.
“We don’t want to just look for homes, leave them with a set of books and think that our good deed for the day is done. We want to do something that would benefit the children in the long run, so we hold reading sessions to ensure the children make the most of the resources,” says Ilyana.
BFC operates independently and the girls learned the hard way, what it takes to run a volunteering initiative. It was not easy finding a home to start their reading sessions.
“During the early days, we contacted a few homes to say we have some books that we would like to share with the children, and we got rejected,” says Alia. “Some homes already have a reading plan, while others needed more convincing and asked us for a complete lesson plan and list of reading activities.
“So it was back to the drawing board for us. We understand why the homes asked for a lesson plan: there was a need for a concrete plan to show our long-term commitment to the home,” says Ilyana.
After going back and forth for months, the girls finally got the green light to hold reading sessions at Rumah Limpahan Kasih in July.
Ilyana describes the reading sessions as a humbling experience. “The kids are so co-operative, it’s amazing. We couldn’t have asked more from them.”
Rumah Limpahan Kasih houses 12 girls aged between four and 17. The volunteers are divided into two groups: one for the younger girls, and another group for the SPM students.
For the younger group, the girls get to pick any book they like and have the volunteers help them with the reading. They learn new words along the way. The session includes a “question and answer” time.
“The girls are really animated during Q&A. They are curious about a lot of things: they ask us about school, college and life in general,” says Ilyana.
Alia and Ilyana are thankful to have a small team of dedicated volunteers.
“Without our volunteers, we’re nothing. They’re an amazing bunch of people,” says Ilyana, adding that their only requirement for volunteers is “commitment.”
“Commitment keeps us going. For us to go further we need more volunteers to help us organise events, handle paperwork and assist the kids during reading sessions.”
At the end of the session in Rumah Limpahan Kasih, Alia hands out notebooks to the girls.
“We are going to leave you with a box full of books here. You can pick out one that you like and start reading. While you’re reading, list down words you don’t understand, in this notebook. We’re going to come back next week and help you with those words,” Alia tells the girls at Rumah Limpahan Kasih.
The girls’ faces light up when they go through the boxes of books and pick out Enid Blyton storybooks and tales of Disney princesses.
Alia hopes to keep BFC going, inspired by the words of American journalist Christopher Morley who says: “When you sell a man a book, you don’t sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue – you sell him a whole new life.”
“We believe that knowledge will empower us to do great things, and reading helps us to acquire knowledge,” adds Alia.
For information on how you can volunteer with Books for Children, log on to www.facebook.com/BooksForChildrenProject. You can also e-mail BFC at email@example.com or tweet @BFCProject.
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Lifestyle, Books for Children, Rumah Limpahan Kasih, books
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