A half a world away, the generosity of local residents is making a difference in the form of libraries that bring literacy and enjoyment to children all over the Philippines.
Twice a month, volunteers meet at the Centre Congregational Church in Lynnfield to pack up the books for shipment overseas. Marie Lagman, who was born in the Philippines, has been a board member of the Bagong Kulturang Pinoy (New Filipino Culture) nonprofit group for several years now and also chairs its book packing committee.
Books geared from preschool through high school are obtained from used book sales and book drives, neighbors and friends, and other grassroots efforts. A selected library in the Philippines will receive an initial shipment of three boxes of books, and can then receive more on a yearly basis - particularly with an emphasis on books for preschool and elementary school reading levels. A handful of magazines, particularly Highlights, Smithsonian and National Geographic, are also accepted, as are recent encyclopedias.
Lagman has lived in Lynnfield for more than two decades. She arrived in the United States with her family at the age of 3, and they settled in Melrose. Lagman is a mother of two sons who currently attend Lynnfield High School and Lynnfield Middle School. In fact, Ryan and Kyle Prouty donate their time to the organization along with their mother, and a library in one impoverished community in the Philippines even reportedly bears their name. "It's what we do as a family," she said, adding that with a relatively small Filipino community in the Boston area, this is also a good way to connect with their heritage.
"It's a lot of work but it's very rewarding," she said of the nonprofit, noting that along with collecting book donations for children and teens, group members also sort the books by different reading levels and age groups, as well as stamping and boxing them up. Last year, Lagman reported that the group sent about 47,000 books to various regions of the Philippines. "All just from our little basement in the Congregational Church," she added.
Volunteers from groups such as the St. Maria Goretti CCD program and the Centre Congregational Church Youth Group are among those who have helped out at the twice-monthly meetings. The Congregational Church had a previous book drive, and the Peabody School District also reportedly provided a number of books after a recent change in textbooks. Looking ahead, Lagman also expressed interest in getting local girl scouts and boy scouts involved, or others looking to do community service.
Group members usually meet on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. to package the books. However, Lagman notes that those interested in donating books should contact her first since the group does not currently have a formal drop-off point.
"We encourage volunteers, we'd like to see more community volunteers," said Lagman, adding that the work is "more of a hands-on community service."
Those wishing to get involved or to learn more about the group can contact Lagman at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.