STAWELL - Knowing her efforts will ensure children in Papua New Guinea learn to read and write and have access to quality educational materials, has brought great satisfaction to former Stawell woman, Kate McInnes.
Kate, the daughter of Bruce and Sue Shuttleworth of Stawell, is a volunteer coordinator with the Buk bilong Pikinini program in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Buk bilong Pikinini (books for children) is an independent not for profit organisation, which aims to establish children's libraries and foster a love of reading and learning.
Kate, who attended Stawell Primary School and Stawell Secondary College, said she had been thrilled with the support of people back home in Stawell.
"Without the continued donations of books and generous financial support from individuals and organisations, we would have no libraries, equipment or staff," Kate said.
"I would like to thank all Stawell Times News/Ararat Advertiser readers who have generously donated their books to Buk bilong Pikinini. It's terrific to have support from home."
Sue Shuttleworth has been a major contributor to the campaign back home, helping to coordinate book collections in and around Stawell.
So far, the generosity of the public has been overwhelming, resulting in several hundred books being donated to the program from the people of Stawell and district.
In Papua New Guinea, there are few functional libraries outside the school system and most children do not have access to books at all.
Buk bilong Pikinini brings the books collected in Australia to Papua New Guinea children, via the creation of small libraries in community based localities such as near settlements, clinics and market places.
Buk bilong Pikinini currently has 11 children's libraries across Papua New Guinea and had 130,000 child visits to the libraries in 2012.
Kate said she found it very rewarding being a part of the Buk bilong Pikinini program.
"I think the best thing about being a part of an organisation like Buk bilong Pikinini, is that I'm actually here to see the results of the donations of the books," she said.
"I get to open the boxes and sort through the books, it's like having Christmas every day. It probably sounds quite funny, but when you have seen where the books are going to end up, you know that even though they are second hand they will be loved and cared for like they were new."
When community libraries are opened in locations, the entire community turns out to celebrate.
A library was recently opened at Evadahana and Kate said there were 150 children registered at the library prior to its opening.
"It's great because I get to meet the parents, who are so grateful to have access to an early learning centre like our libraries," Kate said.
"They understand the value of learning to read and like all parents they want to give their children the best opportunity in life. Most of the parents are illiterate themselves, they have either grown up in villages or lived in settlements around Port Moresby having no access to education for several reasons, cost, travel and safety being the main ones.
"The children are always at the libraries early, every day without fail. We have more than 100 children attending the libraries every day Monday to Friday.
"When I visit the libraries with the other volunteers, the kids love to sit and hear us read to them or do craft with them. They are so attentive during the library sessions, you can see they really want to learn, they are absorbing everything you say to them. It's quite amazing."
Kate admitted that until she arrived in Papua New Guinea and became a part of the Buk bilong Pikinini program, she really took education as a right, reading especially.
"For us living in Australia, we all know that we are going to school and we will learn to read," she said.
"The kids over here really take education as a gift and for them to be given an opportunity to access early education, it's something they really treasure."
Buk bilong Pikinini aims to put their libraries in areas where the most vulnerable children in Papua New Guinea can access them. This means having the libraries either very close to or within settlement areas, which aren't always the safest places to be.
The people living in these areas, live with no electricity or running water. The 'houses' or 'shacks' are little more than bits and pieces of scrounged wood put together to form walls and roofs.
Kate said to maintain the libraries within these areas is a huge financial undertaking. Buk bilong Pikinini recently entered into partnership with World Vision who will fund four libraries to be built within settlement areas. Evadahana was the first of those libraries to be opened.
Residents wishing to obtain further information regarding the organisation can visit the website www.bukbilongpikinini.org or to make a book donation, call Sue Shuttleworth on 5358 2111.