How community libraries can change lives

Dwight de Leon
How community libraries can change lives
Established in 2010, the Library Renewal Partnership aims to build at least 200 community libraries by 2020 and 'empower Filipinos to make our nation great again'

MANILA, Philippines – Many of the kids in Tondo are said to be scavengers, but if people can change the destinies of others, a non-government organization believes it starts with donating books.

Volunteers of Library Renewal Partnership went back to Childream Daycare Center in Barangay 105, Tondo on Saturday, July 16, two years after their first visit, to refill the library in their community with books and other educational equipment.

Established in 2010, the organization aims to build at least 200 community libraries by 2020 and “empower Filipinos to make our nation great again”. (READ: Where have our libraries gone?

According to Quintin Jose Pastrana, founder and managing director of the Library Renewal Partnership, they have either built or donated to 155 community libraries as of 2016, and the daycare center in Tondo was their 75th library, marking the “halfway point” to their record.

“The place has become more beautiful; the place has expanded and it’s the community that owns the place and takes care of the place. So in a sense, it’s the locality that manages the library with their resources, sometimes with help from others. And it’s nice that the kids are the ones who benefit from this,” says Pastrana.

When asked on why he chose this advocacy, he said that among many other things, investing is education is his greatest reward.

“Even if kids don’t go to school, they can still be productive citizens of the society. Otherwise, they will not be able to be successful in life. So this is why we think public libraries for out of school youth is very important,” Pastrana said in a mix of English and Filipino. (READ: Let curiosity take you places)

Storytelling session

The children of Tondo joined a storytelling session conducted by volunteers of the Library Renewal Partnership.

Volunteers were friends and relatives of Pastrana, some foreigners, and representatives from the National Book Development Board, an extension of the Department of Education.

Children were read storytelling books complete with visuals, their favorite, according to their teacher Remy Cabello, a social worker who manages the daycare center.

VOLUNTEER. Remy Cabello talks to her pupils

Cabello, who also works for the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children, said the establishment of the library promotes positive values to kids.

“Here in our place, wayback five years ago, it’s disorderly here. But because many NGOs and awareness groups came to help us, there have been libraries and computers, and [I can observe that] criminality in our community has reduced,” Cabello said.

After the storytelling session, the kids were treated to an afternoon of ice cream and popcorn. Cabello said they do this every Friday where they provide food to encourage the kids more to attend the class.

Lessons learned

According to Pastrana, their foundation has donated approximately 5,000 books to Tondo alone, which include textbooks and artbooks.

Library Renewal Partnership also donated a flat screen television set to the daycare center for multimedia presentations and some toys for the children to use.

“In a given event, we receive many donations from different NGOs. We are partnered with National Bookstore, Anvil, Adarna, Bato Balani Foundation, et cetera. Many people give, so we always have enough donations,” Pastrana said.

Regarding future plans, the LRP founder said they will be expanding to other remote areas in the Philippines very soon.

“We have libraries opening up in ARMM. Next month, we’ll also open libraries in Ormoc and Tacloban, those who were affected by Haiyan. Even in Surigao and Jolo, we’re gonna do more libraries. And some organizations abroad would like to partner with us because they saw the bayanihan spirit we have here. So we’re going to do one in Bhutan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar,” Pastrana said.

When asked about the most valuable lesson he learned, Pastrana said it’s that “education really changes lives”.

“Libraries become sanctuaries for children, especially in an informal settlers’ area where there is no public space. Whether a library is cheap or expensive, it gives power to children who want to read. And maybe someday, they can get out of poverty,” he shared. – Rappler.com

Dwight De Leon is a Rappler intern and the president of DZUP Radio Circle, the official student organization arm of UP Diliman’s official AM radio station, DZUP 1602.

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.