The World Is Just A Book Away

Sarah Monich is a 2009 Staples grad, now a student at William & Mary.  A volunteer with The World is Just a Book Away — an organization that brings books and education to children in developing countries — she recently participated in 10 library openings in Padang, Indonesia.

Sarah posted this report on WIJABA’s blog:

Each of the schools we opened libraries at welcomed us with so much excitement and energy.  The children could barely contain themselves; the headmasters and teachers smiled and embraced us with vigor and sheer joy.  I was so astounded by their extremely kind, grateful, exuberant welcomings.

Though I have been doing volunteer work here and in India, I was still shocked by the effort the schools put in to thank WIJABA, and how happy the children were to have us there.  Being with the children, seeing their faces as they poured into the libraries and raced to take bright books off the shelves, I felt like I was in a dream that moved me and touched my heart, a dream that I will never forget.

I wish more people could experience what I did in Padang, and I hope that people take the time to reflect on how much a single book means to a student, how much a library means to a school, how much a smile means to a child.  I am so touched and fortunate to have been a part of this.

Amidst the intoxicating chaos, a few moments stand clearly out in my mind. The first is the way the children shook my hand to show respect.  Many of the children at every school, while shaking my hand, touch it gently to their foreheads.  This gesture was so beautiful, so genuine, and I was so touched by their thankfulness and respect.

Sarah and her new Indonesian friends.

A second was visiting the Darren Dahlman Memorial Library, which I had visited a few days before to distribute the books and tear off the plastic with the children.  When I saw them again I was so happy to recognize them.  I spent my entire time  in a back corner with a small circle of girls, trying to read a story in Indonesian, and being taught to speak simple words by these girls. They were so cute, enjoyed hearing me butcher every word they tried to teach me, and smiled and laughed with true joy the entire time.
Finally, at the last school on the last day, the Kartini Library, I was literally cornered into the back of the room with so many children laughing, screaming, holding up books, trying to touch me, laughing with me.  I was so happy and fortunate to be with these children in their time of excitement.
Though there were earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes, causing destruction and devastation near Padang, it was a week of excitement, generosity, learning, friendship, love and peace.  The energy was contagious, and I will forever remember the smiles, handshakes, hugs and shouts.  I will treasure all that I saw, and utilize my passion for these children to help with WIJABA’s mission to spread knowledge and books to children around the world.

3 responses to “The World Is Just A Book Away

  1. The Dude Abides

    Kudos to Sarah. Former Microsoft executive John Wood has also founded “Room to Read” and has developed thousands of libraries across the world. Many of the children have never seen a book before. The particular focus is teaching the female children to read for it is thought they will continue their education with their offspring. It is an enlightening saga into how really fortunate we are in this country that lies in a world where many billions of people make less than 2 dollars a day. Education is the way to escape this extreme poverty and thanks to folks like Sarah and John, steps are being made to improve their way of life.

  2. Esoteric?

  3. As founder of The World is Just a Book Away, I just wanted to comment on what a pleasure it was to have Sarah work with us in Indonesia. She made an enormous difference to us and to the children we serve, who gathered around her everywhere she went. You can see pictures of Sarah at the library openings on our website ( Because of her work and the generosity of so many people, the lives of thousands of children were forever enriched in 2010.