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I met Aisha* on a recent trip to Sierra Leone. And I could tell by the sparkle in her eyes that she and I had something very special in common. Like Aisha, I fell in love with books the first time I walked into a library.
My library was in Kigali, Rwanda, where I was born and raised. I was 12, and I had never seen anything like it. I found myself swept away by the magic of all those shelves lined with books that were just waiting for me to read. And even though we didn’t have a lot of money, my mother bought me a library membership.
Aisha was 12, too. But her library was in Freetown, a city in Sierra Leone that was settled by Black Nova Scotians who had fled slavery. And on this special day, Aisha’s library was full of Canadian Navy personnel. They had come to build shelves and read with the children. The room was alive with laughter and excitement. Aisha was excited, too. And I could tell that this would be a day she’d never forget.
Aberdeen Municipal School students happily reading to Lieutenant Commander Paul Smith - commanding officer of HMCS Summerside.
I’ll never forget it, either. It was a moment that made me proud to call Canada home. Watching these caring Canadian servicewomen and men build the library of Aisha’s dreams made me cherish just how much the gift of books had changed the course of my own life. I wish you could have been there to see this love in action when members of our Canadian Navy arrived at Aberdeen Municipal School in Freetown. Before they arrived, I didn’t expect more than a dozen or so to come. So you can imagine my surprise when two busloads of servicewomen and men showed up, eager to share their own love of books with children in Freetown. I had never seen anything like it. They enthusiastically installed new shelving in the library, and could not wait to read with the children. Some even brought their own favourite storybooks to share.
It never ceases to amaze me how much Canadians believe in the promise of education. You know it has the power to change lives forever.
You can share this amazing gift with children all over the world this holiday season by making a donation to CODE. And thanks to a generous Canadian CODE donor, your gift today will be matched – dollar for dollar – up to $100,000!
If you believe in the power of books to connect, inspire, teach, and transform, donate today and share the gift of books with children around the world!
For the love of books,
Willy Rangira, Senior Program Manager
*Aisha’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.