Books of love: 600 libraries, 11 years, 1 man's story

August 04, 2022 - 11:24
On weekends, Tú Anh and his friends in the "Sunday Love" group gather in Thủ Đức to pack and send books.
Nguyễn Tú Anh, in green, brings books to a village. — Photo

HCM CITY — On weekends, Tú Anh and his friends in the "Sunday Love" group gather in Thủ Đức City to pack and send book. Their goal is for 1001 libraries for children in remote areas.

When Tú Anh was young, his life was complicated.

The family was so poor that sometimes there was not enough food to eat, but his parents always tried to save every penny so their three children could go to school.

After days and nights of studying, in 2007, Tú Anh, born and raised in Yên Bái Province, was admitted to the University of Economics HCMC.

The young man from way up north went all the way down south to complete his dream, and worked part-time to support himself.

After graduation in 2011, Tú Anh had the opportunity to visit young people in the highlands.

Witnessing the hard life of children in the highlands, without food and knowledge, Tú Anh decided to help them in his own way.

"When I went to play with the children in the highlands, I found that the lives of the children here were still very difficult," said Tú Anh.

"I wish the children can have a bright future and be rich in knowledge. Books bring a great source of knowledge and enrich the soul, so I decided to bring books to the highlands. Thus, children will love to read more and love to learn more."

Tú Anh's journey to bring books to the highlands begins here. At first, he alone went to ask his friends to donate books. If there were any shortage of books, he would buy more out of his own pocket. After collecting and classifying books, he carried the books to remote and isolated areas to give to children.

"When alone, I rode a motorbike and carried books to the highlands. I gave books to the children I met along the way. However, I felt that doing so was not enough, and I needed to find a more effective way to do it. And setting a goal of 1001 libraries for children in remote and isolated areas is the start," said Tú Anh.

After some time, his work became known by many. From here, he found many more companions on his journey and named their group "Sunday Love."

For 11 years, every weekend morning "Sunday Love" gathers at Tú Anh's house in Thủ Đức City to receive, sort, pack, and send books nationwide.

"Sunday Love" has thousands of members across the country.

"I just do it, and as people see it, they also want to contribute time and effort."

"Everyone at "Sunday Love" lives together like family members. Our work is meaningful, so more and more people are participating," said Tú Anh.

They usually work on Saturday and Sunday, mostly preparing the books. The books will then be delivered by post or car to many places in the highlands.

"In addition to books, our group gives away educational equipment such as projectors, printers, and musical instruments to schools," Tú Anh added.

On their journey, Tú Anh and his friends encountered many difficulties. The biggest difficulty is in the sourcing the books.

"We need a lot. Since the beginning of the year, we have only shipped about 100,000 books, which is 10 per cent of our 2022 target. So we all have to work hard. We ask people to donate books, buy new and old books, and try to have as many books as possible," said Tú Anh.

At first, the books from Tú Anh were not received well by locals.

"The people were not very enthusiastic to receive them. But we were also mentally prepared for that," he said.

Sunday Love have never been discouraged. Seeing children holding books in their hands, reading passionately, carefully turning each page, motivates the group to do more things.

"The children love books. We bring milk and some food to offer to the children, but because they are so busy reading, many even forget the milk," Tú Anh said.

Sunday Love has its own fund to buy books which is donated by everyone in the group.

"We have the group's fund, anyone can contribute how much they want. With that money, we go to buy used books, new books and pay the shipping fee. All expenses we pay in full. What teachers, community libraries, and home libraries need to do is to accept books and don't have to pay any fees," he added.

In the past 11 years, Sunday Love has brought more than one million books to children in the highlands and created 600 libraries. In addition, the group also has many activities to promote reading habits in children.

Tú Anh hopes that in the future, there will be a library everywhere, with enough books for children to read.

"If we can build 1001 libraries for the first time, we can build 1001 libraries more the second time. Every year, we try to call for donations to bring one million books to all the villages in the country," he said.

On why he chose the number 1001, Tú Anh explained that it is a magical number, which will help him and his friends at Sunday Love realise their dream, a dream that every village in remote areas will also have a library.

Speaking about his hectic schedule, Tú Anh said: "It's been like this for 11 years now. It's part of my life. On Sundays, people like to go to coffee, meet friends, relax, but for me, on Sundays, I want to do something for the highland kids," he said.

Tú Anh has never thought about when he will stop, and as long as he has strength, he continues to work and 'carry' books to the highlands.

"If at some point, I see that the children are full, there are no more difficulties, the highlanders have enough books to read, no longer have a shortage of books, I will stop," said Tú Anh.

"What I want the most is to just hang out with the children and not have to bring anything. If there is still something to bring, it proves that children are still struggling." — VNS