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|29 December, 2018

11-yr-old sets up libraries, extends 'shelf life' of old books

Started community initiative 'Read Swap Repeat', installing bookshelves in six locations in the UAE.

An 11-year-old student has been extending the 'shelf life' of old books - setting up mini libraries in communities - for more than a year now. Recently, he gifted two labour camps with bookshelves, encouraging blue-collar workers to read his "recycled books".

Sean George, a student of Millennium School in Dubai, couldn't bear the thought of discarding old books - remembering how trees were cut down just to produce them - nor could he stand seeing them sit in shelves, with no one bothering to open them up.

In April 2017, he started a community initiative 'Read Swap Repeat', installing bookshelves in six locations in the UAE. He stocked them up with secondhand books that he either got as donations or bought at garage sales.

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"The idea is to give people books to read, promote sharing in the community, especially among children, and conserve the environment by adding value to books that were made from trees," Sean told Khaleej Times on Saturday.

Since the launch of 'Read Swap Repeat', around 2,000 families have already benefitted from his community bookshelves and over 1,000 books were given "new life", said Sean's mother Betsey George. In total, he had installed eight bookshelves in Dubai and one shelf in Ras Al Khaimah.

As Sean celebrates the anniversary of his drive, he decided to take it a notch higher and launched 'Educate4Tomorrow', expanding the reach of his books to workers' camps.

Sean said he set up bookshelves in Al Quoz and Muhaisnah to give blue-collar workers a chance to read, learn more, and appreciate the value of education better.

"I was inspired to start Educate4Tomorrow when I was stocking books in the Uptown Mirdiff shelves. One of the waiters working at the food court came up to me and thanked me for the shelves, saying he would use it sometimes during his free time. He told me that he barely gets time to do anything except work," he said. The shelf at the Al Quoz camp has 150 books while the one in Muhaisnah has approximately 50 books. Sean had worked with the company Dulsco in placing the shelves at the dining areas of both camps.

"We have religious books, as well as simple moral stories. Most importantly, the books are in Hindi, Urdu, Malayalam, Arabic and English. There are some simple grammar books suitable for Grade 1 and 2 students. But the books are for diverse nationalities," said Betsey and Sean.

"Since 2019 is the Year of Tolerance, Educate4Tomorrow encourages inclusivity. We want to provide books to different people from different countries, following different religions," Sean said.

They have 40 huge boxes with 50 to 60 books in each box. "We are looking to expand the scope of the initiative by working with more labour camps," Betsey said.

Sean and his family get their book donations from a charity called Books2Benefit, which is run by its founder Ursula Manvatkar.

"Our biggest donors, however, are community mums. Mum groups from the Pakistani community, Malayalee community and other groups provide us with books. Garage sales also help. We buy them for as cheap as Dh5," the mum and son added.

They would usually hold their book donation drive through their social media channels, mainly on Instagram and Facebook.

Sean's mini libraries are located at Uptown Mirdiff Mall, RAK Hospital, Millennium School in Al Qusais, Elite Business Centre in Al Barsha, labour camps in Al Quoz and Muhaisnah, and Al Mozna building in Al Nahda.

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