Imagine No Illiteracy
A lot of people like to read. Yet, many of us in the United States take our education for granted. Imagine that you have only one book, and it’s about farming in Southern Maryland—but you live in Zimbabwe.
Did you know that fifty percent of the schools in Africa have few books or none at all? Or that 757 million of the world’s people are illiterate, and 115 million of them are young people?*
I had not been very active in my youth group. Late in 2014, my new pastor, Faith Lewis, was settling in; and she wanted to get the youth group more involved in missions. When she learned that another church in our community, Smithville United Methodist Church, was planning a mission trip to the Murewa Mission School in Zimbabwe, Reverend Lewis asked the group to take a Worldreader e-book to see if the school would be interested in this kind of resource. Murewa said yes, and soon our youth group became involved in promoting world literacy.
We decided to hold several fundraisers to meet the goal of providing every Murewa student with an e-reader. That’s when I got excited. I have always been fascinated by the history of video games. Since the fifth grade, I have collected old systems, dating from the Atari 2600 to the GameCube. Since other people had made fun of my passion for gaming, I was a little nervous about sharing this side of myself at church; but I thought it would be a good way to get children and youth involved in fundraising. So I offered to set up a few video game consoles and TVs at the church for a game day fundraiser. I brought older consoles because they’re not as complicated as the new games and easier for kids to pick up and play. Parents could come by and drop off their kids for a free will donation. The games were a hit. We held several game days during the year—whenever school was not in session. The kids got to know one another, and we raised about $900 for e-readers in Zimbabwe.
In partnership with WorldReader, Amazon, and Volunteers in Mission, youth groups from many churches are providing the school with e-readers. The reading tablets are distributed by the Worldreader Digital Library. Instead of sending books to the school, which would involve shipping fees and storage issues, we could provide a whole bunch of e-readers with about 200 books downloaded on each one. Worldreader provides a variety of books that can be enjoyed by a wide range of ages: textbooks, storybooks, and international books, with the option of downloading more. The e-readers also provide children with options for practicing their reading as well as the opportunity to write and publish their own stories.
Our youth group is partnering with Smithville UMC on the e-reader project; and both of our churches have held fundraisers using social media, vacation Bible school, and the video game days to meet our goal. Working together, we have raised approximately $5,700 for the cause. Check out our fundraising page.
We all have interests that other people may not understand. Being different, we can feel like outsiders. But God made each of us unique for a good reason. I think God gave me an interest in video games so I could contribute to our fundraising efforts and help to fight illiteracy in our world. In what ways can you use your unique interests and talents to help other people?
GO DEEPER: Learn more about e-readers.
* Statistics from UNESCO Institute for Statistics, September 2015