Last Wednesday morning I woke, probably like you, to the news of the huge earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. I felt so very sad and wished there was something I could do to help. Something more personal than donating to the Red Cross, something more than emailing and tweeting friends to check they were ok and to let them know I was thinking of them.
I was soon in touch with Bronwyn, a resident in Christchurch and long time follower and supporter of Playing by the book. Fortunately she and her family are unhurt. Although their house is damaged they live in a district that has not been as badly affected as other parts of the city. I wanted to send her something as a small token of solidarity, care and hope, but as we tweeted a bigger idea emerged.
Many families in Christchurch have had their homes destroyed and badly damaged. They’ve lost everything, including books. I know I’m preaching to the converted when I talk about the comfort and solace books can provide, especially in times of stress and despair, but now I want to ask you if you would like to take part in something that will help provide exactly this: An opportunity for you to personally help families affected by the earthquake.
Bronwyn and I are gathering a list of families who are in need of books. Many of these families are homeschoolers, though certainly not all. What we are asking is for you to reach out to these families and send them a book or two. A new children’s book, a book you and your family love, a book that the family you’re paired with might enjoy, might make them laugh, might make them feel that people, you, are thinking of them and supporting them.
So, if you would like to reach out to a Christchurch family please get in touch and Bronwyn and I will team you up with a partner family. Send me an email (zoe dot toft at kuvik dot net) saying you’d like to help and we’ll take it from there.
Some practical nuts and bolts:
I’m also helping Bronwyn gather books to distribute to welfare centres for displaced resident across Christchurch. We’re both thrilled that Julia Marshall, publisher at Gecko Press has very generously offered to send a parcel of books for Bronwyn to distribute. Gecko Press produces wonderful books and I know they will be hugely appreciated by their recipients.
Whilst investigating in what way Brownyn and I could best help families in Christchurch, Stephanie Borgman, Children’s Specialist at Harris County Public Library, Texas wrote to me of the huge importance of books to children and families in welfare centres in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:
“Books in reasonable quantities may be very much appreciated by displaced individuals living in shelters. They need something to engage their minds and give them some relief from their concerns about the present disaster and its impact on their future.
Obviously food, water, medical supplies, and basic shelter are the priorities, but books are also a real blessing – especially for the children. Some of my best memories of that time include walking through the Astrodome shelter and seeing children on their cots absorbed in a book, oblivious to the turmoil around them. It was possible to set up a “library” in the last shelter opened at the Convention Center and it was very popular, serving as a community center providing many of the standard library services plus giving families “some place to go.”
Please don’t send worn and yellowing materials. The children will feel so valued to be given lovely new books. It may be the first item other than clothing, likely used, that they receive as they begin the journey to rebuild their lives.”
If you are a publisher with a distribution base in New Zealand and could send a box of books for Bronwyn to distribute, please get in touch (zoe dot toft at kuvik dot net).
Publishers in New Zealand are already involved with a large project in the aftermath of the earthquake to ensure every child in Christchurch receives at least one book as a start to replacing their lost reading material but the scale of this project means it will likely be several weeks before kids are receiving those books. What Brownwyn and I are working on is much smaller scale, yes, but it will be able to help kids and families out in a matter of days.
Also, a fund for the relief of Booksellers in earthquake devastated Christchurch has been established by Booksellers NZ. Click here for more information.
For photos of the effects of last week’s earthquake in Christchurch click here.
To read children’s responses to experiencing the earthquake click here.
For regular updates from Bronwyn about her amazing efforts on the ground helping families and distributing books, read her blog here.