Daily Point of Light # 1340 Mar 24, 1999

BOOKS for the BARRIOS, Inc., a non-profit, all-volunteer corporation, defines itself as a project of the heart. As an organization that guides American schoolchildren to collect, pack, ship and distribute books and other educational materials to the remote, impoverished public schools of the Philippines, BOOKS for the BARRIOS fits that description. The largest program of its kind that operates in the United States and the Philippines, the corporation funneled 3,700,000 pounds of textbooks, educational learning aids and devices to disadvantaged children.

Many of the schoolchildren in the poorest barrios (villages) of the Philippines have never seen a bound book written for children. They lack libraries and very few have access to a dictionary during their four or five years of formal education. Through donations from individuals and civic groups and corporate sponsorship, BOOKS for the BARRIOS is striving to improve the educational conditions for these children. Financially, the organization has developed a streamlined approach in which a network of volunteers in the U.S. and abroad is able to turn every dollar of financial support into $100 worth of educational resources delivered to those most in need.

BOOKS for the BARRIOS began in 1981 when an American family, stationed at a naval base in the Philippines, witnessed the conditions of the public schools and decided to take action. Coordinating logistical resources available from the U.S. Navy and Philippine Airlines, they began the distribution nationwide of desperately needed materials. From that modest beginning the program has blossomed into a global network that continues to be guided by the mission of spreading literacy to students in underdeveloped regions as the coin of the foreign policy of our nation.

American schoolchildren are an integral part of the BOOKS for the BARRIOS program because they sponsor youth book drives and donate from their personal collections. Books are also gathered from publishers' overstock and discarded texts from local school districts. American children also participate in a school character development learning unit by working in the corporation's production warehouse, the National Children's Education Sharing Center, helping to screen, sort and pack the materials for shipment. They are proud to include messages of encouragement to their classmates from across the globe. When the product reaches the Philippines, local organizations work closely with the local departments of education to ensure that the materials get to the intended beneficiaries.

The BOOKS for the BARRIOS National "Model-of-Excellence School" Program is an outreach that develops scores of large, severely deprived elementary schools into world-class learning centers that other schools can emulate. These schools are furnished with every conceivable material resource as well as the state-of-the-art technology devices and staff extensive development. They serve as a catalyst for national investment in basic education.

BOOKS for the BARRIOS conducts National Teacher Training Conventions that prepare thousands of local instructors to train their peers in advanced teaching methodology. This substantially improves the quality of classroom instruction throughout the country.

In essence, BOOKS for the BARRIOS has successfully implemented a global community action program operated by American children that empowers millions eager students from rural, poverty-stricken villages with access to knowledge. By sharing the gift of education the children bond in friendship and goodwill as they face the challenges of the global village in the new millennium. Over one million children are served by BOOKS for the BARRIOS each year.