1 May, 1998
CONTACT: Tania Vitvitsky, Sabre Foundation (617) 868-3510
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
The Sociology Department of Brandeis University is the home of two individuals making connections that make a difference to the peoples of Grenada and Tibet. Professor Gordon Fellman is part of the committee coordinating the visit of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader in exile, who is being awarded an honorary doctorate at Brandeis on May 8. Meanwhile Professor Fellman's colleague Dessima Williams is in the midst of coordinating a host of activities at the offices of the Grenada Education and Development Program (GRENED) which she founded in 1996 to improve the quality of life in largely rural Grenada, an island country in the Caribbean.
The work of both professors is linked by another Boston-based organization in the business of education, the Sabre Foundation, which specializes in the donation of educational materials internationally, and has recently shipped 10,676 new donated children's books and school texts to the Tibetan Children's Village (TCV) schools in India run by the Dalai Lama's sister, Jetsun Pema, as well as another 17,327 texts of a similar nature distributed by GRENED among approximately 60 elementary and 10 high schools in Grenada.
Among the materials Sabre shipped to India for the exiled Tibetan children are books donated by such publishers as World Book Inc., Simon and Schuster, and McGraw-Hill, including 64 sets of the World Book Encyclopedia, 149 sets of the Young Scientist Encyclopedia, 108 sets of World Book's Childcraft Encyclopedia & Dictionary, 200 copies of Scribner English Dictionary (McGraw-Hill), classic fairytales in book and cassette format as well as biographies written for children (Simon & Schuster), and materials from Human Rights Watch.
Jetsun Pema is founder and president of the Tibetan Children's Village, a network of schools which from its humble beginnings 37 years ago has become a thriving educational community aiding not only destitute Tibetan children in exile but also hundreds of children who have escaped Tibet in recent years. The TCV schools count over 12,000 children in their care.
A report received by Sabre this month from the TCV school administrators testifies to the delight children have taken in their newfound sources of knowledge. Just as appreciative are the school authorities who admit to a very tight budget for books and great difficulty in obtaining high-quality texts. In the report, administrators state that, "the receipt of these valued gifts not only added more life to our libraries but also made the library a place which a student never wants to leave. . . . These new books are a breath of fresh air for our children . . ." The report concludes, "School is a temple of learning and Sabre Foundation enriched our temple of learning with the most valued gift a child could ever dream of."
The largest donor of books to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, Sabre Foundation is increasingly expanding its purview beyond texts for professionals and university students to include a broad inventory for children and youth. In 1997, out of 325,476 books sent overseas, Sabre shipped over 75,000 books for young people to Belarus, Croatia, Hungary, India (TCV schools), Mongolia, Tanzania, Ukraine, and Zambia.
In partnership with the Sabre Foundation, GRENED's Dessima Williams in 1996 managed to distribute mostly children's texts among 173 institutions serving up to 25,000 students. The Grenada shipment was one of Sabre's earliest shipments focusing almost exclusively on juvenile materials, and the positive impact of this shipment is still being felt today. Says Professor Williams, "In a small country like ours with the kind of history we've had, we value education very much. These books have really expanded the learning options in many schools and public libraries."
Speaking on the donated books' impact on children, Williams states that, "at the pre-primary school level they have really facilitated early cognitive learning. The books are big and colorful, with drawings and pop-up charts. The children really enjoy them." She adds that when she recently took part in the opening of a library, the book donation "made the library a reality."
Professor Williams believes that education is the catalyst for community change and that books make a good starting point for community spirit: "In the library, for example, children learn to share, to be quiet, to put back books where they belong." For the summer, Williams is planning a "Summer Science" program for young people, introducing them to medical and agricultural science as well as technology and computer science.
When Dessima Williams is not teaching at Brandeis, she is in Grenada, still dedicated to, as she calls it, "the notion of continuous learning": "an education which leads to a productive and satisfying life is among the best insurance against poverty in communities all across Grenada." Gordon Fellman also extends his dedication to learning beyond the classroom: in 1995, for example, he chaired a two-day conference on Tibet entitled "A Culture in Exile," held by the Peace and Conflict Studies program at Brandeis.
The Sabre Foundation for its part brings educational tools to people who need them, ensuring that the knowledge, expertise and services of publishers, government agencies, non-profit organizations and educators like Williams and Fellman, in the concrete form of books and technology, can reach the hands and minds of children and adults around the world.