Auckland, New Zealand
The wealth of Europe was a stark contrast to the poverty we experienced in Asia. But it did not challenge us – we were removed from it, living relatively simply with just our seven backpacks.
The wealth of New Zealand, however, confronts us. It is personal. It is ours.
Most specifically – for today anyway – I’ve been unpacking our books. It’s no secret, we have a lot of books.
We believe a good education can be gleaned through books and we have made every effort to ensure our children (and wider community) have access to good books. I do not regret this in the slightest, but as I opened box after box after box after box after box all full of books, I could not help but think of the children we met in Laos – the one who were receiving their first ever books, the ones who would have a library of fifty books to choose from and then there would be no more for them to read. Fifty. Fifty books for your whole childhood. Fifty more than when Big Brother Mouse began publishing, but it’s still a pitiful number, is it not?
When we visited BBM, we were impressed. Very impressed. And I don’t just say that – we also visited an orphanage in Cambodia where we were NOT impressed. That one was a money-swindling operation with very little credibility. Big Brother Mouse was different. Do you remember us going to the book party we sponsored and then writing about it on the blog? That’s THE ONE post that people keep talking to us about even now.
And we keep thinking about it too.
We want to sponsor another book.
Having no personal income makes this difficult for the children, so we are thinking creatively. As we have unpacked the book boxes, we have not automatically returned them to their homes on wooden shelves, but have set aside a fair number to sell. We’ve just got to work out the best way to do this. TradeMe? A book fair?
We could do another sponsored walk too: the Coast to Coast walk we did last time would not be such a challenge now, so we may need to set our sights on something more demanding. Any ideas?
Another silent auction perhaps. The only problem is we no longer have a houseful of gear we do not need. We’ve given it away! Maybe we could approach businesses to donate decent prizes instead of on-selling just our junk.
We could ask all our readers to donate a dollar each, and according to our stat counter, we’d be well on the way to sponsoring a book. Any takers?
Then there are the other things needed at BBM. Of course their biggest need is for money so that they can get on with their work of making books and getting them into the hands of the Lao population. But they can also use educational games, used laptops and digital cameras, and old computer parts, as well as the odd book that they don’t publish themselves (they do not, however, want all the throwaway books that no-one else in the west wants either!)
One thing we noticed during our month in Laos is that there were precious few toys. Kids kicked around rattan balls, and the little girl in whose house we stayed had a Barbie doll, but that was all we saw. Knowing what enjoyment our own children have had with a wooden train set, I wondered if such a toy would be appropriate in Laos. I thought maybe not, because quite simply there are no trains in Laos. But look! Here on the Big Brother Mouse website is a picture of kids playing with a new toy – a wooden train set!
As for games, I suspect there are plenty of kiwi households with an old magnetic Chinese Checkers board or wooden quoits set or construction equipment sitting in the back cupboard. There might even be microscopes or inflatable globes no longer in use. I’m sure there are Monopoly games with Park Lane missing, or 1000 piece puzzles of which only 998 pieces remain. Lao learners don’t need these offerings! Neither could they use games requiring a good command of English. But surely there are *universal* games sitting in dusty corners that could enhance the life experiences of children, who ordinarily have access to next-to-nothing. Is there anything at your house? If you live in New Zealand, we’re happy to collect goods, and somehow get them to Sasha in Laos. We’re willing to personally deliver them if need be <wink>
the resources table at the school we visited