Foundation builds public libraries in poor communities nationwide

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Proof that people love to read. They line up at this stand of religious books besides Quiapo Church looking for titles that may interest them. Photo taken March 7, 2014, first Friday of the month. By Oliver Samson

MANILA, March 8, 2014—The Education Foundation, Inc. (EFI), a group of laypeople whose apostolate centers on edifying Catholics through education, is putting up public libraries known us “Bahay Karunungan” (House of Knowledge) in depressed communities in Metro Manila and the provinces to motivate and support learning among the less fortunate through reading, EFI President Naomi A. David said in a recent interview.

“We set up public libraries in poor communities,” she told CBCPNews. “It’s part of our advocacy for reading, to provide the urban poor and the grassroots across the country with reading materials and encourage them to imbibe knowledge.”

Like the typical libraries, Bahay Karunungan is furnished with mainstream books, religious volumes, magazines, newspapers, other manuscripts; and even personal computers to provide the indigents with as much as the apostolate of EFI can dispense.

What makes it distinct from the usual libraries is the formative thrust of the foundation, which is administered by laypeople, and who run the libraries in the same manner the religious people manage a treasure trove of reading materials.

The EFI undertakes this project in collaboration with partners who back its advocacy for helping educate people, especially the poor. They assist the foundation prime the site and acquire reading materials and tools before putting up the library.

The fund for setting up the library and acquisition of books and other library resources is provided by individuals and groups “who have a heart for learning,” David said.

“But the soft program and how the library will be ran come from the foundation itself,” she said. “This is not the usual library that we grew up in. It serves as a reading and learning center for the community.”

Books, magazines, and other reading materials are reviewed first before admission into the library, David said. The foundation does not allow obscene reading materials to get into the library. It will tamper the thrust of the foundation to spare young people from the moral collapse of the society.

Unlike conventional libraries, Bahay Karunungan does not follow the standard office hours of 8am to 5am. It opens from 11am until early evening to accommodate students after school and other people after work.

The underprivileged student, whose home has no space conducive to learning or has poor lighting, can go to Bahay Karunungan and do his homework, David said. People can visit the library, which is situated in the community by walking distance, if they wish to read a book, a magazine, or a newspaper after the day’s work.

A librarian who comes from the community itself does storytelling for children. She also facilitates comprehension and formation of children into young people who are aware of the things around.

Other activities in the library include watching wholesome TV shows, screening of films that promote moral values and virtues, and discussions on issues affecting people.

The foundation had already proven that not only people in the higher strata of the society have passion for reading, even the less fortunate do.

A mother visited the library after washing clothes, picked up a book and perused, David said. Her daughter was looking for her until she found her mother gripped by a good story.

The foundation has already set up a number of libraries in poor communities in Metro Manila and the provinces. It is also getting new supporters of the project.

Individuals and groups, who have the same advocacy, can join the foundation and its sponsors in holding the torch for the less fortunate, so that they may see the right path, and walk stronger in faith. (Oliver Samson)

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