WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water is a charitable organization that is dedicated to donating books in English and local languages, and also focuses on funding clean water and sanitation initiatives in some of the most disadvantaged communities in the world. We carried out an exclusive interview with Corinne Robson who is Projects Manager at WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water, to learn more about the life changing work being carried out by this inspiring charity.
Hi Corinne and welcome to e-Books India! We’re thrilled to have you join us for this interview. Could you please start off by telling us a bit about WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water? When was the organization formed and why was it created?
WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water (www.waterbridgeoutreach.org) is a California 501(c)(3) (non profit) organization that works to provide multicultural books to schools and libraries in developing countries, while also engaging with local communities in these countries to provide the clean water and sanitation that are essential to the infrastructure for education and literacy projects.
We are very much a grassroots organization and seek to promote multicultural literacy, education, and development that will make a long term impact, one book and one water project at a time, while building effective partnerships with local communities. Our work takes place in various countries including India, Tanzania, Haiti, the Philippines, Malaysia and Pakistan.
WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water (WBO) grew out of the former PaperTigers.org, an internationally recognized website about books in English for young readers that worked over a period of 11 years to bridge cultures and open minds, promoting a greater understanding and empathy among young people from different backgrounds, countries, and ethnicities. From its inception WBO has had two purposes: first, to find various ways of putting books in the hands of young readers in the hope that they will inspire and educate lifelong readers; second, to fund the development of water projects that will provide the children and communities where books are donated with access to clean drinking water and sanitation.
Can you please tell us about the core activities of WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water?
Since the physical possibilities of WBO are limited, our core activities have been, and are now, always evolving in accordance with resources and needs:
- Book Projects – we have provided books and literacy materials (in English and local languages) to participants in the program as well as the funding of several mobile libraries that provide underserved children in remote areas access to reading materials.
- Water Projects – funding clean water and sanitation projects such as bore well and hand pump systems, reverse osmosis systems, the construction of school washrooms and rain catchment systems in poor, rural areas.
What is your role at WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water? Please tell us about some of your team members and their roles.
I am the Projects Manager for WBO and my multifaceted role includes maintaining and updating the website and Facebook page with information on projects, selecting books in previous years to be sent to recipients/partner organizations, corresponding with and managing information of recipients and partners, tracking the charitable contributions we receive and thanking donors, and serving as an assistant to the Executive Director.
Our Executive Director is Dr. Peter Coughlan, who is responsible for its mission and operations. Dr. Barbara Bundy is WBO’s Books + Education Outreach Coordinator and heads up the team that has selected the sets of multicultural books in English that WaterBridge Outreach has donated each year as well as gathering feedback on how the books were used. Barbara has written a number of informative and interesting reports about this on our website. This year we are discontinuing the mailing of books, but still seeking to work in various ways with the schools and libraries we have been in contact with and we will continue to present this work on the website.
Gail Tsukiyama, Writers for WaterBridge Outreach Coordinator, is an internationally recognized award winning author who heads up our Writers for WaterBridge Outreach team. This is a team of high profile authors who believe that funding books, clean water, and sanitation projects in areas of need is vital to promote literacy, education and development.
Last fall Gail and author Karen Joy Fowler went to Kearney, Nebraska where they spoke at our first Writers for WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water fundraising event, in conjunction with the Kearney Library Author Speakers Series. This event launched an important new Writers for WBO Book Project, publishing books in the native language of communities where there is limited teaching and learning resources, and where having any access to books is especially difficult. In a recent post on the WBO website Gail reported on our Inaugural Writers for WaterBridge Outreach Event and said, “Our first book project was funding the production of 8,000 booklets in Kiswahili, the lingua franca of East Africa, working in close collaboration with Melissa Queyquep of The Foundation for Tomorrow (TFFT) in Arusha, Tanzania. It has proven to be a wonderful collaboration. I can’t think of a better fit than for writers to put books in the hands of young readers, especially where there are no libraries in primary schools, and in most government secondary schools.
It is our hope to continue making books available in the native language of other communities we have worked with: Creole in Haiti and Tamil in Southeast India. The need is great for this ongoing book project led by the Writers for WaterBridge Outreach and for all those who believe in the power of a book.
WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water also carries out book and water projects in India. Can you please give us an example of one?
In India we have carried out book and water projects in the states of Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan. These projects include installing bore well and hand pumps, installing water tanks and reverse osmosis systems, construction of school washrooms, book donations in Tamil and English, and establishing mobile libraries and tuition centres. We encourage your readers to visit our site and click on the Projects Now page to learn about each project. The accompanying images truly speak for themselves.
Can you please tell us a bit about the impact WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water has had on the lives of children and underprivileged communities?
Let me share with you portions of the feedback we have received over the past several years from Karen Lukas, Executive Director, Folk Arts Rajasthan/The Merasi School in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India. Her feedback really emphasizes the importance of our work in helping underserved children and their communities:
“The WBO team joins other worthy initiatives in our global neighborhood of social responsibility by addressing children’s bodies and souls with two of their critical needs = water and books.
The marginalized Merasi community is often denied access to schools and education. Filling their small library with carefully handpicked books that the children are allowed to touch, to choose, and read freely delights and opens young minds in restrictive worlds, to no bounds … Watching the children explore a world beyond the harsh desert one they know is thrilling. Images of grass and green draw Merasi “Kid clusters”…These reading times are happy periods where even children with lesser skills are willing to stand up and call out the letters one by one…Our small library and WBO books are building self esteem; there is often clapping in appreciation …
By offering healthy drinking water, the Merasi School WBO tank has relegated to memory the years of looking into water pots and buckets to see sand plus swimming things. For that, our thoughts of gratitude are indeed endless.
Together, we all stand dedicated to the most basic Human Rights of the rising generations of community leaders.”
And from Christine Low, Executive Director, Friends of Matenwa, Haiti:
“I’m very grateful to WaterBridge Outreach because Peter Coughlan and your team have repeatedly funded what we’ve said we needed, not what you think we need, one example being a series of science books in Creole from EducaVision. They have been a great learning tool. The books enabled both teachers and children to see and learn about animals they had never seen. We really liked the book you had donated to Matènwa in English called One Hen: How One Small Hen Made a Big Difference, by Kate Milway, and when we found it translated into Creole as Yon Poul, WBO kindly provided funding for us to buy copies of the Creole version for use in several schools.
People on Lagonav are starving—there is an annual 6 month drought. We have organic gardens and breakfast program in the Matènwa school because children can’t learn if they are hungry. WBO provided seed, fencing, and rain catchment systems two years in a row, which enabled many Matènwa families to develop organic vegetable gardens at home. The third time WBO provided funding as part of an even bigger program that distributed seed and catchment systems to 60 families from 10 other schools. We are currently training 25 new schools in our network to develop sustainable organic vegetable gardens. The families of these 25 schools are eager to start gardens because of the examples they have seen, thanks to WBO’s willingness to believe and invest in Matènwa’s development dreams.
Is there any particular project WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water has been involved in that you’re particularly proud of?
I wouldn’t say there is any one project that I’m most proud of as each project is unique in its own way. To see a photo of a child drinking purified water for the first time, to see a lady standing at a hand pump and know that she no longer has to walk miles each day for water, to see a teenage girl standing in front of her school washroom and know that she is able to continue her schooling and not have to defecate in an open field, to see children holding a book in their hands – each of these images speak volumes to me and drives home the importance of our work.
However I will admit that I do have a particular fondness for mobile libraries since hearing Luis Soriano speak at the 2011 Asian Festival of Children’s Content and watching his documentary Biblioburro: The Donkey Library. Luis operates the Biblioburro, a traveling library that distributes books to children from the backs of two donkeys in La Gloria, Columbia. His story is told in several award winning picture books (Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia by Jeanette Winter and Waiting for the Bilbioburro by Monica Brown) which are must reads for children and adults alike!
As you can see from the various examples in the Projects Now section of our website, www.waterbridgeoutreach.org that I mentioned above, WBO has helped to finance several mobile libraries on motorcycles in the Tamil Nadu region and in addition recently provided funds to the Dagdag Dunong Reading Center in the Philippines to purchase a Jeep of Hope which will bring books in Tagalog and English to the indigenous Mangyan children on the island of Mindoro.
What ways can people get involved with the activities of WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water and support your organisation? How can people find out more about WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water?
We invite your readers to visit our website at www.waterbridgeoutreach.org and to like our Facebook page WaterBridgeOutreach. Our website features information and photos from our book and water projects, information on our Writers for WaterBridge Outreach team and also contains a NEWS AND UPDATES section that has interviews and in depth articles on different aspects of our projects. Visitors to the site can also sign up to receive our bimonthly newsletters. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
At WaterBridge Outreach we rely completely on donations (which are tax deductible for USA residents) to support our existing book and water projects as well as to start new ones. At present whatever donations we receive go to supporting our projects rather than going to administration costs. Donations may be made securely via PayPal on the website and can be made in any currency. I would ask readers of this interview to consider a donation, in any amount, and to ask interested friends as well, to help, as the need we are meeting is so great and the appreciation of children, villagers, teachers, and librarians WBO is serving is likewise so great.
Thank you so much for your and e-Books India’s interest in and support of WaterBridge Outreach’s work!
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/hv1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Hiten Vyas is the Founder and Managing Editor of eBooks India. He is also a prolific eBook writer with over 25 titles to his name.[/author_info] [/author]