20 libraries to open in Tongan villages

Twenty new libraries brimming with books donated by the University of Auckland community will soon open in Tonga.

Alumni Relations Manager Joel Terwilliger and Books4Tonga founder Cynthia Wallis Barnicoat with some of the 7,000 books donated to establish community libraries in Tonga.

University staff members, alumni and supporters responded overwhelmingly to a call for quality used books from charity Books4Tonga.

In total, 7,000 books were collected during Volunteer Impact Week in June, and are now being shipped to Tonga to help both children and adults to enhance their skills in reading, writing and speaking English.

Books4Tonga founder Cynthia Wallis Barnicoat says the University’s response to the book drive was fantastic and demonstrated an appreciation of the value of books.

“The people of Tonga greatly respect education but there is very little access to good reading material. Books in the schools are often quite old. Tongans know that enhancing their English skills can bring better futures, but for many, books are unaffordable. Working together, we are all changing this.”

The village libraries will be based in a home or community space, run by local volunteers.

The people of Tonga greatly respect education but there is very little access to good reading material. 

Cynthia Wallis Barnicoat Books4Tonga

The book drive was held during the University’s inaugural Volunteer Impact Week, when students, staff and alumni were encouraged to give just one hour of their time to a cause.

More than 500 people took part in a number of initiatives worldwide, from donating goods to tree planting, to feeding the homeless in New York and running craft activities for childhood cancer patients in Beijing. Other notable projects included the collection of 412 seeing glasses which are being shipped to Samoa, and more than 3000 plastic and paper bags being diverted from landfill to be recycled. 

Alumni Relations Manager Joel Terwilliger says he was particularly thrilled that the University could contribute to the Books4Tonga initiative, and he was looking forward to seeing Volunteer Impact Week grow bigger in coming years.

“Volunteer Impact week saw our University community stepping up and working together to contribute to social and environmental issues here in Aotearoa New Zealand, and also in communities around the world."

The Books4Tonga drive originated in the Business School. Teaching Fellow Sione Taufa and Group Services Team Leader Herena Newall made a casual call for books last year, with the project gaining momentum from there.

The 2018 drive resulted in a container load of books being sent to Tonga.

"It was just informal networking initially, asking a few people on our floor and around the building if they had books to spare but we were amazed at the response," Herena says.

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