building a dream: living in the library to foster global literacy

Remember when you were in university, and exam time would roll around, and you felt like you lived in the library?

Or if you were a book-loving kid, as I was, and the library was your sanctuary? Did you ever wish you could live there?

In January, students at nine Canadian universities will be doing just that: living in the library. Through Live-in For Literacy, they'll be focusing attention and raising funds for a global literacy project, DREAM: Discover the Reality of Educating All Minds.

In university libraries from coast to coast, two students will camp out for one week - eating, sleeping and living in the library. For each hour they live in the library, the students earn five minutes of break time, which they can accumulate and use for washroom breaks. Other than that, they're there 24/7.

The current Live-in For Literacy takes place from January 27 to Feb 3, 2011, and will be broadcast by webcam.

Calvin Santiago is the coordinator of the University of Toronto initiative. Calvin writes:
As university students, we already have a deep, personal understanding of the challenges against access to education. Most of us are privileged to have grown up in Canada where access to primary and secondary education is relatively easy and hassle-free.

Upon entering post-secondary education however, many of us are suddenly faced with overwhelming financial barriers and sadly for many prospective students, these challenges prove to be insurmountable and they get left behind. While we understand that we as university students ourselves can’t solve everything, we also know that every little bit helps.

Now imagine living in a world where even access to primary education – arguably the most important stage in a child’s education – is faced with financial barriers. It has been shown time and time again that education is a strong social determinant of health where the higher the level of education you’ve attained equates to how healthy you are. Imagine again living in a community ravaged by poverty where the most basic of human needs of food, water and shelter are compromised. Similar to education, poverty is also a strong determinant of health where essentially the richer you are, the healthier you will be.

The DREAM project seeks to alleviate some of these harsh financial burdens in the communities of developing countries. Standing for "Discover the Reality of Educating All Minds," DREAM has focused on raising money to build educational facilities through its partner organization, Room to Read. Since its inception five years ago, we have raised over $70,000 to build new school libraries in Nepal and India as well as a computer lab in Cambodia. Since then we have expanded to seven university campus and our goal this year is to raise $20,000 for two purposes: to build another library in India and to support publishing of 10,000 children’s books by local authors.

I love this:
While we understand that we as university students ourselves can’t solve everything, we also know that every little bit helps.

It's the perfect activist attitude. And while many of us want to create a world without these gross inequalities and injustices, children right now, today, need access to education. Calvin:
Our first goal will target the problem of access to education by enriching a community with a library and allowing school children to explore and discover the world found within a few pages of a book. We are particularly excited about the latter goal as this will hopefully give a much needed economic boost to an impoverished community. Our hope is that this will have lingering beneficial effects on the community rather than a simple band-aid solution that is seen in so many other initiatives.

Besides people who want to live in the library, Live-in for Literacy needs local businesses to give in-kind donations or gift cards, used for raffle prizes.

Live-in for Literacy will take place on these Canadian campuses: Simon Fraser, McMaster, Memorial, Queen's, University of British Columbia, University of Ottawa, University of Toronto (Mississauga), University of Toronto (St. George), York, Concordia. For more information: Live-in For Literacy, Queen's DREAM, Room to Read.

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