In Texas, Rotarians can be all too aware of the controversies surrounding school textbook choice, with quarrels notoriously centered on the degree of emphasis to give to selected historical figures and even whether or not to allow use of a single word to describe the defenders of the Alamo. Required texts are changed out every few years.
But in areas of South Africa, among other recipient countries, schools are eager and grateful to acquire whatever discarded textbooks Texas may be able to offer, historical nuances notwithstanding.
A number of Texas Rotary clubs, the Temple Club among them, have worked for years to steer critically needed texts into poverty-stricken communities where both educational funding and the resulting literacy rate are minimal.
With club members providing the labor and both Temple and Belton school districts, along with Temple Public Library, the books, the Books for the World project this summer sent three (!) of Wilsonart’s donated 18-wheelers packed with shrink-wrapped, palletized volumes down to the Port of Houston. From there, container ships transport them to South Africa’s Port of Durban. From Durban, Rotary District 9300 steps in with additional transport, right down to the “last mile,” to build library collections, and thus literacy, in budget-strapped regions. Since the program was established in the early 2000s, it has been embraced by Rotary clubs in over a dozen other states.
To haul the books down to the port, Wilsonart, a Temple-based leading supplier of engineered laminated work surfaces, has offered use of company’s tractor trailers for several years, now. But not all project-related expenses are donated. In Houston, sea containers must be purchased, each costing several thousand dollars. Once unloaded they are converted into village libraries or even classrooms. And then there is the freight rate by sea to South Africa, another several thousand that must be raised.
Past District 5890 Governor Charlie Clemmons established the Second Wind Foundation in Seabrook, Texas, to serve as the financial arm of the program. Tax-deductible donations to Second Wind underwrite container shipping costs beyond the goods and services provided by Rotarians.
With confidence that the current virus crisis will eventually end and that Rotarians will again gather comfortably for club meetings and group projects, Books for the World holds every promise to continue promoting education and literacy in response to Rotary International’s inspiring motto, “Service Above Self.”