We've been blessed to be able to travel the world on our sailboat over the past couple of years. This year we spent several months in the the islands of Fiji where we visited many remote island villages. Some of these villages haven't seen outsiders in years. We found wonderful and hardworking people living in conditions most of us would never even be able to comprehend. Everyone in the villages works daily to provide food and shelter for their tiny communities. One thing that is very important to all of them is education for their children.
We arrived in a village on Kia Island in northern Fiji on a warm, sunny morning. As is tradition we went to shore to offer kava to the Chief in exchange for his permission to visit the island. While the Chief wasn't there, his brother, Ben was and he held the kava ceremony with us. Afterward he took us over to the school. This visit changed us in many ways.
The headmaster let the students out early for their afternoon meal as they were all very excited to see us ... you know, the strangers from the sailboat. We always try to bring a little something to each village. Sometimes it's food or clothes, sometimes small toys and yes, even items like pencils and paper for the schools. This time we brought frisbees, drink mixes and nail polish for the girls. They loved that!
Not long after our arrival two of the older girls...maybe 13 or so, grabbed me by the hand and told me they just had to take me to see something so special to them. The led me across the lawn to a brand new building. No, it's not a large building ... maybe 20' x 10' but it was certainly brand new. I could smell the freshly cut wood and new paint as we approached.
The smiles and giggles from these young ladies was absolutely contagious. They opened the door and they pulled me inside. They proudly announced that this was their new library as they danced in circles pointing out the bookshelves and desks. I've never seen children so happy and grateful to have a library before. What immediately struck me, however, was that there were these beautiful new wooden bookcases and yet there was probably only about fifty books ... mostly magazines lining a couple of shelves. My heart literally sank into the pit of my stomach.
Here these children brought me, in all their exuberance, to a library that was virtually empty yet they were so proud and happy to show it to me. By now many other children had arrived to show their pride in this beautiful new building. They all asked me to take their pictures in and around the library. I was in awe of their shear excitement over a building that held little to nothing inside.
As we made our way back over to the school Dan and I spoke with the headmaster. He explained that in Fiji the textbooks and things are taken care of by the government but they don't provide reading books. He said it's the one thing the children sorely lack.
(Dan with the Headmaster, Ismeli, on Kia Island)
Later we asked the children what they would like us to bring back with us when we return next year. There was no hesitation, the answer was a resounding ...."BOOKS!"
Here these children could have asked us for anything ... clothes, toys, computers, whatever, but they want books. And, as we traveled to other villages throughout the islands we heard the same thing from the kids. "Books, books, books. We want books."
This is why we're here asking for some donations. We want to bring books back to these incredible kids. We are talking with teachers in the U.S. and New Zealand to help direct us on the best books for children from kindergarten to eighth grade and will be buying as many as we can to take back with us. If we have too many to haul on our boat (and we hope we do) we will pay, out of our own pocket, to ship them to Fiji to a place where we can pick them up and distribute them to the various villages. We will also be buying many books on our own but simply can't afford to buy as many as we'd like so we are asking for a bit of help.
We truly hope you will donate even a small amount to help these amazing kids. They don't have much but a little education and good reading material would go a long way to improving their situation.
Thanks for reading!
Jilly & Dan
P.S. Please note that we will take lots of photos of our book deliveries and will be sharing them here as well as on our DazzlersWatch.com
site. We will make sure everyone in these villages knows that this was a joint effort by everyone who donates. It's important that these children know there are people in other parts of the world who support them.