LTG MDA/D Pat O'Reilly, Jamie Zvirzdin, and U.S. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands Tom Armbruster in front of the Wellness Center. September 2012.
Last month I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of three-star Lieutenant General Pat O'Reilly, and he brought up the possibility of starting a volunteer program for personnel on Kwajalein, where many people who work for the military wish to help the local Marshallese population but aren't quite sure how.
I suggested that personnel wishing to be Reading Volunteers could purchase the finished books from The Unbound Bookmaker Project from Amazon.com (the books are sold at-cost) and go read to a classroom of students, raffling off copies, teaching the students how to care for books (many of whom have never owned a book in their life), and showing the students how to create little 8-paged books out of a single sheet of paper. See these little books from the Majuro Cooperative School as examples.
Hello readers! My name is Lauren, and I am the current WorldTeach volunteer at Woja Elementary School in Woja on Majuro in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (a mouthful, no?). My 8th grade class is participating in The Unbound Bookmaker Project with the topic of the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. I know many people might wonder how I'm finding time to complete this project while working within the school curriculum and making sure the students are learning what they need to learn. Luckily, their English language school books have specific sections on the environment, which in the first quarter of school I happily made use of to introduce the concepts of the environment, environmental problems, and environmental solutions. Our grammar and writing practice also surrounded these topics. We give special thanks to the Majuro Atoll Waste Company (MAWC) for coming to Woja Elementary to speak to our 8th graders, as well as giving us a tour of the Majuro dump site -- both of which have given my 8th grade class incredible insight into how the 3 Rs work in the RMI. Having spent another couple weeks focused primarily on grammar, writing, and how to organize information, I'm excited for my students to finally begin the writing process. This experience is one that they will surely not forget!
When my students were asked to write in their journals about the project, here were some of their responses:
As we prepare for the major endeavor of typesetting 23 books for The Unbound Bookmaker Project, I have been able to finish a very sweet project. Melba Kaye Smith, my grandmother, wrote up her experiences and I had the privilege of making it into a book. It took over a year and I had the help of my grandmother, my father, my aunt and uncle, and perhaps a little help from above as well in creating this 135-paged history. My Grandma Kaye had what I would call a tough life: she worked hard on a farm in Hooper, Utah; she had her little finger cut off by a farm machine; she experienced appendicitis and the mumps; she was involved a terrible car accident that nearly decapitated her and left her on the edge of death for many months; her father died after getting caught in a hay baler; she had a sad divorce that left her with four little children; she worked herself to the ground to support her family by herself; she had the awkward experience of a second marriage and being compared to her new husband's first wife.
And yet . . .
Mr. Savu Waisake's fourth grade class from last year finally got their own copy of The Important Book about Majuro! We did the project too close to the end of the school year, so as new fifth graders they received the fruits of their labors. It was very rewarding to read through it with them. We hope to create similarly rewarding experiences for 23 WorldTeach volunteers and their classes this year!
Please donate so that other children can receive their own copies! You can purchase The Important Book about Majuro here on Amazon.com, but since the project receives not a penny from the sale of these books, we ask that you donate separately to support literacy in the Marshall Islands!
Many thanks to Office Mart, Payless, EZ Price, and Copymasters for donating all the materials we needed! We also used the supplies from the first pilot project at Co-op, so thanks too to Ethel Nelson for providing those.
. . . as well as something extra for the classes. Good luck, WorldTeach volunteers!
Thanks to Becky Lathrop, artist and principal at Co-op high school, for providing a workshop on how to teach art. There's a fine line between teaching skills and allowing the artist to express himself or herself in a new way, and Becky's teaching allowed for both.
WorldTeach volunteers will be teaching both the writing and the illustration portions for the book project. Not an easy task! Thanks again, Becky! The workshop was very enjoyable.
The WorldTeach HQ contacted Laura Sundblad, the recent Field Director of WorldTeach in the Marshall Islands, about doing a podcast detailing what the The Unbound Bookmaker Project is, how it works, and its importance in promoting literacy in the Marshall Islands. Here it is! We are still needing donations to make the Marshallese children's books (the kids write and illustrate them with the help of the WorldTeach volunteers, I publish them, and then each child, school, and volunteer get a copy). If someone—or a group—provides for a whole class ($480), then you or your group receives credit within the book.
I think we always talk about encouraging literacy in the world, but this is the easiest, most direct, and most efficient use of funds to directly impact Marshallese children, who have very few books. For some, especially on the outer atolls, it will be the first book they own.
Today the Embassy of Taiwan presented WorldTeach with $480 for a class book. They chose the topic of solar power, which will be a great asset to Marshallese children and families since Taiwan has already donated many solar-powered technologies to Marshallese living in the outer atolls. Today, in fact, Ambassador of Taiwan George T. K. Li signed an agreement with the government of the Marshall Islands concerning the donation of many solar-powered laptops and computers.
This is not the first time the Embassy has provided help to the outer islands of the RMI; many Marshallese in the outer islands have small reading lamps donated by the Embassy, lamps that function using solar power.
Many thanks, Ambassador George T. K. Li and the Embassy of Taiwan! We are looking forward to teaching the children about solar power and helping them to turn around and teach many others through their class book. The Ambassador strongly supports education and we are grateful for his support of the project.
Other organizations wishing to donate and choose a topic can do so before July 25, 2012, before the WorldTeach volunteers begin their training. Sponsored topics will be given out at that time, although we will be fundraising and accepting general donations for the rest of the year.
Lauren Pallotta, amazing artist and former WorldTeach volunteer and Field Director, is supporting The Unbound Bookmaker Project! Purchase prints of her art pieces "Heita" or "Ido," which feature her students from Airok (Ailinglaplap Atoll), and $10 of the proceeds will be directed to the project. Thank you, Lauren!
Click on the images to go to Lauren's Etsy shop.
While I still edit science books and help kids create stories, I've moved my focus to writing science-based fiction and non-fiction stories. See more at www.jamiezvirzdin.com.
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