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Community Bookshelf at Thanh Hoa city

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Book-lover helps to spread the word

Dang Thi Hon believes reading brings enlightenment, which is why, since 2009, she has devoted her spare time to distributing books to the needy. Minh Thu reports.

While most people spend their free time relaxing, 26-year-old Dang Thi Hon is busy wandering around bookshops collecting books for poor children from remote areas.

During her time at Ha Noi University of Culture, Hon went on many charity trips to remote areas and took part in volunteer work. Seeing that many children didn't have a chance to read books and poor schools were unable to provide students with textbooks, she began thinking of establishing a library that everyone was welcome to make use of.

"Many students live in areas up to 20km away from their schools," Hon said. "To get to school, they go by foot through the forests and it can take hours."

"It's impossible to find bookshops or a source of reference books for students in mountainous regions, so I wanted to do something about that."

Since 2009, Hon has been travelling around the northern provinces visiting local authorities and teachers to find out exactly what the students need and to build support for her project.

She began collecting books from friends and benefactors. For new textbooks, Hon negotiated preferential prices with bookshops.

"When I presented my idea, I received support from a number of bookshops in Ha Noi," she said.

The project started while she was still at university. Hon found a part-time job and even worked overtime to earn money to get the project off the ground.

As her family home was in a suburban area of the capital, she hired a room near her university to live.

"Sometimes, I finished working late and didn't want to disturb my landlord, so I asked the university if I could sleep in the dormitory with my classmates."

After one month of hard work and numerous trips to the northern province of Phu Tho, the first "Community Bookcase" library was opened to the public.

"I will never forget that day at the Huong Can Primary School," Hon said. "The students were happily reading books, even though there were not enough chairs for them to sit on at that time, so several stood up to read."

 "I saw their eyes light up," Hon said.

Vu Tien Lam, librarian at the Huong Can Primary School, said teachers and students often visited the Community Bookcase to use the facilities.

"It creates good conditions for students to learn by themselves," he said.

"The establishment of the library has had a huge impact and every school should have access to this kind of facility to boost education standards."

Once, Hon and a friend paid a visit to a school in the northern province of Thai Nguyen. From a bus stop by the national road, the girls carried heavy boxes full of books over 10km to reach the school.

Feeling tired and unable to carry the boxes any further, they stopped and waited for a lift. Few people were passing by the area at the time, but luckily, they met a local man who enthusiastically helped them carry the books to the school.

Seeing the success of the project and what the students gain from it, Hon knows she's on the right track and should develop the project further.

"At the beginning, I concealed my work from my family," Hon said. "I was afraid that my parents would be unhappy because they had told me to focus on nothing but my studies."

"However, when they found out, they even helped me collect books, which made me really happy."

Working tirelessly since 2009, Hon has now set up five libraries in the northern provinces of Yen Bai, Phu Tho, Thanh Hoa and Thai Nguyen.

She co-operates closely with local authorities and teachers to manage the libraries and serve readers for free.

"The local managers send me reports every three months, and I also pay them surprise visits," Hon said.

Hon has also set up a website about the project at tusachcongdong.com. The site has helped attract even more donations of books from members of the public who are eager to help Hon in her cause. — VNS

Theo Viet Nam News

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