On May 3, 2008, Cyclone Nargis completed its devastating sweep across the Irrawaddy delta in Myanmar (formerly called Burma), passing directly over Yangon. No natural disaster has taken so many lives or destroyed so much habitation in Myanmar.
This event resulted in 135,000 dead or missing and rendered an estimated 800,000 people homeless. Additionally, large areas of the country experienced huge infrastructure, housing and agricultural damage which will take years to repair. By any account, this was a catastrophic disaster.
Despite its poverty, Myanmar has thousands of community libraries in addition to 150 college and university libraries. Burmese have a value for reading supported and encouraged by their history and culture. A casualty of Cyclone Nargis was over 1,000 village libraries destroyed.
In 2008, the Nargis Library Recovery (NLR) project was born out of the vision of John Badgley, retired librarian/professor from Cornell University and founder of the Institute of the Rockies, and Dr. Thant Thaw Kaung, founder of Myanmar Book Aid and Preservation Foundation. NLR was initially sponsored by the Institute of the Rockies, then gained independent charitable tax status in 2009 as well as a license of exception to sanctions, U.S. Department of Treasury. Our partners in Yangon is Myanmar Book Aid and Preservation Foundation [MBAPF], and our patrons include Dr. U Thaw Kaung, founder Diploma Library Science Program, Yangon University, Ashin Dhammapiya, abbot of Ngar Pyan Thathana Yeiktha, and Sitagu Sayadaw, Sagaing.
In November 2008, we completed our first shipment … a 20 foot container of 8,000 books donated by the University of Washington and Half Price Books were distributed to 60 libraries in Myanmar in January 2009. Drs. Thant Thaw Kaung and May Moe Nwe, directors of MBAPF, managed the sorting and distribution of books to libraries where they were most needed. Since then Thrift Books donated a million books and American President Lines donated shipping for one third of them, demonstrating our corporate support and our capacity to manage efficient logistics from book sourcing all the way into Myanmar’s community libraries. We have shipped 850,000 books in 17 40 foot containers, and will complete our million book goal in December, 2014
The more ambitious phase of this project involves rebuilding & furnishing libraries destroyed by the Nargis cyclone, providing books & laptops, and help train community librarians to access world knowledge. Business owners in towns and cities often have access; training programs exist in most cities at small cost. In addition to Myanmar Book Aid and Preservation Foundation and Ashin Dhammapiya’s NGO, our project is assisted by local businesses and monasteries.
Accessing Global Knowledge
The Foundation for the Future, Bellevue, WA donated their complete library of unique research reports and futurist periodicals [5,000 volumes] to Myanmar Engineering Society [MES] in 2012. NLR is collaborating with MES to create Myanmar Foundation for the Future, Asia’s first think-tank devoted to long term strategy and contingency planning to cope with global trends, especially climate change, resource depletion and education/training designed to create to skills to match rapidly changing markets and environmental challenges. This year, MBAPF has received donations and support to expand development of Myanmar’s library network through funds from Beyond Access to train librarians on computers, and support to donate computers. Management skills and methods of fundraising will be part of their supervised instruction. Mobile libraries were also donated through the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, which Aung San Suu Kyi created in memory of her mother, widow of General Aung San, assassinated July 19, 1947.
IRS Accredited Charity
Nargis Library Recovery is an IRS-accredited 501c-3 organization. This means your donations are tax deductible. U.S. Department of Treasury granted an license of exception to sanctions in 2009.