Warning: this is one of those rambling posts with a big heart.
I realized that all my pictures and stories from Bonaire had no people in them. This is not unusual. It stems from a couple of reasons. One, I don’t like having my picture taken and therefore I am sensitive and uncomfortable taking photographs of other people. Two, this discomfort leads to me being a really bad people photographer because I try to do it quickly and they often end up blurry. And three, I’m wary about posting pictures of people without their consent.
So what does this have to do with children’s books?
I’m getting to that…hang in there.
Despite the dearth of “people pictures”, I met some fabulous people on my trip (thanks to my godmother who is an extrovert and over the past 25 years has created a wonderful support system in Bonaire, of both expats and visitors). I would like to share one such person with you tonight. Renée, an expat from South Africa, sailed into Bonaire with her husband many years ago on an around the world journey. They never left. Her life on the island is very full, she shows visitors some of the best spots on the island for snorkeling and tells them exactly what they are seeing.
Renée took me on a night snorkel which is an experience that I am very glad to have had. Her knowledge of the life under the water is quite extensive and she loves what she does. Her giggle is infectious. She obviously cares about animals. This is evident in the way she treats her own cats. She also volunteers for the local animal shelter.
Okay, now I’ll get to the children’s books.
The animal shelter on the island has a monthly flea market in a building in Kralendijk. People donate clothing and other items, and the shelter gets all the money from the sale of these items. Renée is in charge of the book section. One day my godmother and I helped out by weeding out some of the older, moldy books to make room for new books. When I got to the children’s book section, I was told to keep all of them no matter how old and grungy because they are the most popular of all the books. A person can pay $1 and get a book, then return it and get another. Books are in Dutch, English and Papiamento (the local dialect). Children’s books in English are scarce, despite English being taught in the schools. The library only has Dutch books. So the flea market is the only place you can find English books for little money.
This is a picture of how many English children’s books there are.
If you are like me, you are appalled that this was the extent of the “library”. Even if many of the books have been taken out by children, this is a very small selection to choose from. I have fond memories of taking lots of time to choose a book in my small-town library when I was young…we had 3,000 people in the town and an entire room of children’s books.
I decided to do something about it, thinking that when I got home, I would send a box of books immediately to the island, alert all my friends and have them send books.
Well, it’s not that easy. To send even a small package can cost upwards of $50. This is one of the drawbacks of living in paradise, your supplies and packages come from container ships that arrive from Venezuela or from the occasional airplane that lands from other countries. So I am trying to figure out another way to get books to the kids on the island. I thought of contacting various scuba diving groups around the world and seeing if they would consider taking a book or two in their luggage. In the meantime, if you know of anyone that is going to Bonaire soon and wouldn’t mind bringing a couple of kid’s books down, give them the animal shelter website address. Basically this is a no-brainer, there are two groups that benefit from this, the animal shelter AND the children of Bonaire.
For more info on the shelter and Renée, hop on over to these sites:
In the meantime, I still have not shown you a picture of a person..that will have to wait until the next post.