Library fights flood to deliver books by boat

September 15, 2018 - 10:00

Life may be hard because of flooding, but hope arrives for the children of Chương Mỹ in the form of a boat, delivering books to youngsters to help cope with their sadness.

Children receive books from Hallo World library volunteers. -Photo
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI - 30 kilometres from downtown Hà Nội, Chương Mỹ was among the areas hardest hit by heavy downpours that began on July 21, leaving much of the district under water.

Life may be hard because of the flooding, but hope arrives for the children of Chương Mỹ in the form of a boat, delivering books to youngsters to help cope with their sadness.

“We want to bring the love of books to children, even if they are suffering because of serious floods,” said Phùng Xuân Trường, a librarian at Hallo World library. “Books can provide a valuable distraction and help children avoid dangerous situations that might arise while playing in the floodwater.”

Hallo World library (Nhân Lý Village, Nam Phương Tiến Commune) started a trial operation in January and was officially licensed by the commune on March 16, Người Hà Nội (Hanoian) online newspaper reported.

Trường said three years ago children started coming to his house to read his books. Before long, Trường’s books could not meet the increasing demand of children in the village.

“One day, a friend suggested setting up a library to help children in the village access the world of knowledge contained in books and to keep them at home during floods,” Trường said.

According to Trường, Nhân Lý is low area of the commune so it often suffers serious floods when there is heavy rain.

“During the rainy season, the whole village is flooded and electricity is cut off,” he said. “Children are stuck at home with nothing to do.”

“We called on friends and supporters to add to the books we already had, and eventually set up a children’s library at my house,” Trường said.

This year, Hallo World dealt with floods from late July to early August. The library tried to remain open to occupy readers, with many children wading through floodwaters to borrow books.

However, with renewed floods hitting the town on July 22, the library was forced to close.

Despite the inconvenience, library volunteers still work each morning and afternoon. They use a small boat to carry books to local children, Người Hà Nội reported.

“When there was flooding in past years, we stayed home or sheltered in the evacuation area. Everyone was very sad,” said local child Hoàng Quyên. “But this year, during half a month of flooding, the library’s volunteers make sure we have books to read everyday.”

According to Hallo World’s other founder, Nguyễn Quốc Tuấn, many generations are happy to have the library deliver books.

“Where there are children, we will deliver books,” he said. “The volunteers go by boat to bring books to each home. Parents and grandparents are very excited to pick out books for their young ones.”

Trường said the library attracted children from surrounding Hoàng Văn Thụ and Tân Tiến communes before the flooding. Hundreds of children came to the library to choose from the nearly 5,000 books on offer. Summer holidays were the busiest time.

During the school year, many children used their free time in the afternoons and on weekends to read at the library or bring books home, Trường said.

Besides his daily work at library, Trường, 39, also teaches children from in and out of the village to read and write.

When he graduated eighth grade at age 13, Trường suffered from a muscle disability. Because he could not go to school, he decided to open a small grocery shop in his home to earn a living.  

During that time, he taught himself to use a pen with his mouth. Now he can write like everyone else.

He finds joy in life by nurturing poor children who do not like studying. He teaches them to read, write and do maths in their free time.

Sitting on his wheelchair, Trường sorts the library’s books and teaches the children, taking joy from hearing their laughter fill the house.

Seeing the children smile has brought a new optimism into his life.

"Children in my hometown yearn to go to school and learn reading,” said Trường. “I have always said we cannot blame people if they neglect reading when they grow up because many of them could not access books when they were younger.”

Friends and members of the community donated age-appropriate books on geography, literature and psychology, but the library is still missing books on law, technology and agriculture.

“I hope the library continues to receive community support,” Trường said. “We want to build more bookcases and fill them with books local people will enjoy. I would also like more support from volunteers with good foreign language skills to nurture the children’s love for English.” – VNS

Phùng Xuân Trường (second from the right) with local residents at the library. - Photo