Posts Tagged ‘water’

corinneToday, Mummum has the pleasure of speaking with Corinne Robson of WaterBridge Outreach. I had the pleasure of hearing Corinne speak as associate editor of Paper Tigers at the 2013 Asian Festival of Children’s Content. I caught up with her recently to hear more about her new work with WaterBridge Outreach, which grew from the award-winning Paper Tigers, an internationally recognised non-profit website about books in English for young readers.

1.What are 3 things you would like everyone to know about WaterBridge Outreach (formerly known as Paper Tigers)?


1. WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water is a California 501(c)(3) organization that relies on public and private support, building a sustainable program of providing multicultural books to schools and libraries, while engaging with local communities to obtain and maintain access to clean water in areas of need around the world. We seek to promote multicultural literacy, education, and development that will makes a long term impact, one book and one water project at a time, while building effective partnerships with local communities. Our work is highlighted on our website www.waterbridgeoutreach.org and we can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/waterbridgeoutreach.

2. WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water grew out of PaperTigers.org, an internationally recognized website about books in English for young readers. This website and its blog worked to bridge cultures and open minds, promoting a greater understanding and empathy among young people from different backgrounds, countries, and ethnicities. Over a period of 11 years, PaperTigers embraced books with a multicultural focus from around the world, offering a wealth of book-related resources for everyone interested in the world of children’s and young adult books. The website, which closed in 2013, is still available as an archived resource at www.papertigers.org. (Former editor of PaperTigers, Marjorie Coughlan, will soon be launching her own blog MirrorsWindowsDoors.org which will focus on cultural diversity in children’s and young adult lit)

In 2009 PaperTigers.org added an outreach program called WaterBridge Outreach to its activities with two purposes: first, to put books in the hands of young readers in the hope that they would inspire and educate lifelong readers; second, to fund the development of water projects that would provide the children and communities where books were donated access to clean drinking water and sanitation. WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water is committed to pursuing and developing this program into the future.

3. To date we have been involved with book and water projects in Haiti, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Africa. Six of our most recent projects are highlighted on our website under the Projects Now tab and include information, photos, costs and feedback from participants. The projects include a bore well and hand pump installation, building of school latrines, rain catchment systems, and book donations.

We are currently in the midst of a fundraising campaign and are looking forward to continuing our work in 2014 and beyond. Plans for the upcoming year include continued support for previous projects as well as:

➢  working with Folk Arts Rajasthan, a nonprofit organization that works with an “untouchable” community in the Great Thar desert in the northwest state of Rajasthan, India, sending books and putting in an underground water tank, rain catchment system, and water purifier, as well as new W.C.s for their school;

➢  working in the southeast state of Tamil Nadu, India, with South Asian Villages Empowerment Int.l, a nonprofit organization, to establish a second Mobile Library there as well as continuing to develop water and sanitation projects in schools and villages;

➢  working with the nonprofit organization Friends of Matenwa to bring rain catchment systems to ten more families in La Gonave, Haiti, to gather water for their families and to help them develop their vegetable gardens for their own use and as a means of income;

➢beginning work in the Arusha region of northeast Tanzania with the The Foundation for Tomorrow to provide books for their Literacy Resource Centers as well as developing much-needed water and sanitation projects in the schools they serve.

WBO Logo full size w website 2. What’s the inspiration behind the name WaterBridge Outreach?

Corinne: The title WaterBridge Outreach was chosen to express the theme of bridging cultures and opening minds for children through literacy and reading; secondly and more indirectly, it suggests the water infrastructure projects that link us to those with whom we work and will be working in different countries.

3. Share 2 best moments from your involvement in the world of kidlit and Paper Tigers/WaterBridge Outreach

Corinne: One of the things that makes WaterBridge Outreach unique is that participants in our book donation projects send us feedback which is then featured on our website. The feedback perpetuates our goals of bridging cultures because participants can see how other children, in different parts of the world have reacted to the same stories and it also provides participants with a public, global voice. Reading this feedback is always a highlight and I think one of my best moments with WaterBridge Outreach was when I read the feedback from the Merasi School in Rajasthan, India. Although I knew that the work we did was important, these sentences completely validated it for me.

The children of the Merasi School are considered to be untouchable. As such they are denied access to most education. To be given permission to hold such lovely books because they are special, is in itself a joyful experience. Watching the children explore a world beyond the harsh desert one they know is thrilling. Images of grass and green draw Merasi kid clustersor images or stories with animals are favourites. These reading times are happy periods where even children with lesser skills are willing to stand up and call out the letters one by one. Our small library and PaperTigers (Waterbridge Outreach) books are building a self-esteem; there often is clapping in appreciation.

A second highlight for me was attending the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in 2011 and in 2013. I had joined PaperTigers.org in 2006 and loved being immersed in the world of children’s literature via our website and our blog. Being able to work from the comfort of my own home yet through the wonders of computers and the worldwide web and to be able to highlight the world of multicultural children’s literature was amazing. I made many contacts with authors, illustrators, publishers etc but it was not until I attended that AFCC that I met many of these contacts in person. As wonderful as technology is, there is nothing like meeting people face to face, especially those that share the same passion for multicultural children’s and young adult literature. So many of these people were so supportive of PaperTigers and particularly our Outreach program. They provided us with lists for potential book donation recipients and in several instances physically delivered books to schools. They helped spread the word about PaperTigers Outreach and continue to help us as we move forward with http://www.waterbridgeoutreach.org.

4. Name 3 favourite children’s picture books which best sum up what WaterBridge Outreach represents.

Biblio coverBiblioburro, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter

 We have all met children with a never-ending hunger for books. Some of them have shelves full of them, but it seems there can never be too many: the prospect of a new story always whets their appetite for more.

 There are other children whose hunger for books goes much deeper. These are the children who may read a single book over and over because it is the only book they have, children who dream about that book when they are not reading it and wish they had others. Deep in the jungles of Colombia, some of these childrens dreams have come true thanks to the ingenuity and determination of Luis Soriano, a schoolteacher and avid reader who has devised a way to bring books to these isolated communities: The Biblioburro, a mobile lending library carried on the backs of two donkeys.

 Each week Luis loads up books from his private collection and carries them from his remote village of La Gloria to even more remote villages in the Colombian jungle. Luis and his burros, Alfa and Beto, endure heat, tiredness, and even bandits as they carry their precious cargo to people hungry for books. When Luis arrives, he reads to the children before allowing each of them to select a new book and return their books from the previous week. Then Luis returns home and reads his own book late into the night.

 With characteristic simplicity and her signature bold, bright colors, Jeanette Winter tells the beautiful story of this man who has enriched the lives of hundreds through his efforts. Children with an insatiable appetite for reading despite full shelves and access to local libraries will appreciate the tale of the Biblioburro that brings books to children who would not have them otherwise. The fact that Luis himself lives a simple life and is willing to endure inconvenience and even danger to bring books where there are none underscores the value and power of reading to those of us who have come to take it for granted. Biblioburro is a heartwarming profile of one man who is making the world better in a simple yet profound way.


FirstComeZebra coverFirst Come the Zebra, written and illustrated by Lynne Barasch

An annual migration of African animals provides foundation and metaphor for First Come the Zebra, a book that has rural Kenya as its setting. While in the animal world there is peace among the grazers, who share the land, the reality is quite different among the people, who inhabit it. Tension persists between the farmers, the Kikuyu, and the cattle growers, the Maasai, as farms encroach on cattle grazing lands.

When Abaani, a young Maasai, sees a Kikuyu boy tending a vegetable stall, he impulsively accuses him of “what he has heard others say,” of destroying the land. After working together to rescue a baby who has wandered off from his mother into the territory of dangerous warthogs, the boys slowly make friends with each other and eventually initiate some trading, milk for vegetables, with the hope that their families, too, may one day become friends.

In Abaani and Haki, Barasch offers children inspiring role models for making peace with neighbors and protecting their environment in the process.


LongWalktowater coverA Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park (not a picture book though, it is aimed at ages 8 – 12)

Newbery Award winner (A Single Shard, 2002) Linda Sue Park bases A Long Walk to Water on the life of a family friend, Sudan native Salva Dut. His travails bring alive the plight of those forced to flee war in Africas largest country (also tenth largest in the world).

In 1985, Dut, son of a prosperous village family, was sent scurrying into the bush when conflict between southern rebels and the northern Muslim government reached his school in southern Sudan. Over ten years, the boy walked many hundreds of miles seeking safety. He saw his uncle assassinated and believed himself the only survivor of his family. Along with the many other Lost Boys of Sudan,Dut spent years in desperately overcrowded Ethiopian and Kenyan refugee camps. In 1996, when a Rochester, N.Y., family took him in, he resumed his education. Park, who also lives in Rochester, met him there.

In tandem with Duts horrific story, Park introduces Nya, a fictional young girl from another southern Sudan tribe who makes two long trips every day to get water for her family. By 2008, when Park begins Nyas story, the pond water is drying up and making people sick. Then some strangers come to her village to help them dig a well right in her own village, halfway between the two largest trees.Once fresh water is available, villagers build a school and Nya begins her education.

The two stories converge when the tall, kind man heading the well-building team introduces himself to Nya as Salva Dut, founder of the Water For Sudan project. Dut now spends half the year drilling wells in southern Sudan and half fundraising in the U.S.

A Long Walk to Water is a deeply moving book that will inform and inspire young readers.

Note: Several years ago we interviewed Linda Sue Park and asked how her writing of this book has affected her own attitudes to water. In her reply she said:

Although of course I always knew on a intellectuallevel that water is vital to life, I was surprised and moved to learn how access to clean water affects those who have never had it before. When [a well is installed] the knock-on effect is staggering. Villagers have opened marketplaces, started small businesses, built clinics. Most important of all, nearly every village that has received a well has started a school for the local children, who no longer have to spend their days fetching water. Clean water directly linked to education – that was a real eye-opener for me!

And in a sense that also encapsulates what we are WaterBridge Outreach are trying to accomplish as well.

{Note: The above books were first reviewed on PaperTigers’s website and have been included with permission.}

6. You have a group of writers who partner with WaterBridge Outreach. Share briefly with us how that works. Are you looking for more writers to volunteer their time?

Corinne: Writers for Waterbridge Outreach is an initiative led by award-winning author Gail Tsukiyama. She has assembled an amazing group of authors who have joined us in our mission to give children in developing communities hope for the future through nourishing their minds and bodies with books and water. The writers on the site bring awareness to WBO through their presence, their voices, and their care and commitment to the future of WBO and our ongoing books + water projects. They’ll participate in various ways: social media outreach, future fundraising events, web site interviews, Q&A conversations, and other projects which will help to give WBO more exposure.

If anyone would like more information about Writers for WaterBridge Outreach do email us at info@waterbridgeoutreach.org

 7. What are the first words that come to mind on what you hope to achieve for children through Waterbridge Outreach?

Corinne: Hope for the future by providing them with the basics of life: books and water.


Caleb in his favourite portable highchair (ie Papa) surrounded by the wonders of Underwater World (2nd birthday outing)

Caleb in his favourite portable highchair (ie Papa) surrounded by the wonders of Underwater World (2nd birthday outing)

Mummum: Corinne, thank you for sharing about your team’s outreach efforts through Waterbridge Outreach through your most inspiring and informative interview and reminding us of how books and water, which is easily available to most of us, is a lifeline to many communities out there. As you say – one book and one water project at a time – and that can change lives and build communities beyond measure.

Related posts:

Conversations on the High Chair #2- Gathering Thoughts from Dr Myra Garces-Bacsal

Conversations on the High Chair #15-Sneaking a Peek into Reviewer Darshana Khiani’s Flowering Mind

Conversations on the High Chair #1- R Ramachandran at the Head Table


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