My Backpack Books Project for Dominican Republic Children

New York, N.Y. “Hi, does the school need English books?” That’s the first sentence I said on a phone call to my English teacher in middle school. Let’s push the timeline back to three months ago. A friend of my dad happened to obtain many books from a bankrupt private library in Albany. As he was trying to figure out a way to handle these books, he asked my dad if we need these books.  When my dad told me about this, I pondered for a second: “Wait… I have an idea, but I don’t know if that’s possible.” My dad encouraged me: “Go ahead, say it.”

If it’s from a private library in the states, the books must be original English books, right? Can I donate it to my middle school in China? Students need original English books to improve their English reading skills.

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This idea came up into my head. Because I decided to study in the United States for high school, I learned a lot more English than my peers. I answered my friends’ English questions whenever they came up to me for help. The best way to learn a language is to read. However, my middle school did not have many English books that I could borrow. Eventually, my English skills improved, but I do not want students younger than me to take the exact long path that I took. If I can provide them with the resources they lack to get the educational catch-up they need, I should do it. Then another question came up: if we mail these books back, the custom will charge us a significant amount of money to pass through.

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My dad suggested me an option. I can bring a little portion of books whenever I go back to Beijing during vacation. So, before the Christmas vacation in 2015, I put 20 books in my suitcases and boarded on the plane back to Beijing. Three days after I got off the plane, I went back to my middle school and gave the books to my English teacher.

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This project that I have been doing inspired me to continue it in a new country – the Dominican Republic. My interest in the Hispanic culture grew from the past three years I spent studying Spanish. Last year, one of my final assignments was to create a project on a Spanish-speaking country. I was assigned the Dominican Republic. Learning about the country in the Internet, I was stunned by the coastline, the beaches, and the kindness of the people.

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However, although the education level of the country ranks the top among the Carribean countries, children in the Dominican Republic are not receiving as many educational opportunities as children in other countries. UNICEF discusses how children in rural zones are much more likely to have a high rate of repetition and dropout.

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I want to help with what I can do. I want to start a similar project that I did in China in the Dominican Republic, called “Backpack Books.” I would like to ask people to donate English books for any ages along with an extra regular-sized backpack in their household. I will reorganize backpacks and books together. To bring it to the children in the Dominican Republic, I would like to ask the Dominican community in the New York area to pick up one backpack stuffed with English books whenever they go down to the country. It is up to them to pick one child that is worthy of receiving these books.

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Yewei "Tina" Yu
A senior at The Stony Brook School and a member of the J. Luce Foundation's New York Global Leaders Leo Club, Yewei "Tina" Yu is from Beijing, China. She has been named J. Luce Leader 2019 and accepted for the Luce Leadership Experience Jamaica 2019 with Caribbean Maritime University and Marietta College. Follow her on Twitter @yuyewei_tina.

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