Trash To Treasure: Young & Old Across The World Create Libraries Out Of Discarded Old Books

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Throwing out a book might seem like a nightmarish thought for avid book lovers, no matter how old and brittle the pages turn, but the reality around the world speaks differently. All over the globe, tonnes of thousands of books end up in garbage dumps and landfills every year, left unread and uncared to turn to dust.

However, in Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, a garbage collector has created a book paradise from trash – a 25,000-book library built from discarded books he collected for over two decades. José Alberto Gutiérrez, just another humble garbage collector from the city and a primary school dropout himself, is now everyone’s favourite ‘Lord Of The Books’.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

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Gutiérrez’s journey began with Anna Karenina

His journey began with Leo Tolstoy’s timeless classic Anna Karenina when he discovered a discarded copy of the same and decided to keep it. Other books like Sophie’s World, The Little Prince and the marvellous novels of Nobel Laureate Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez soon made their way to his fast-growing collection.

“I realised that people were throwing books away in the rubbish. I started to rescue them,” Gutiérrez shared in a 2017 interview with Hindustan Times. As piles of rescued books started taking over entire rooms in his house in Nueva Gloria, word started to spread about his prized collection. Neighbours started coming to borrow textbooks for their children, who were soon followed by enthusiastic readers from the locality.

“We have a blessed curse upon us”

In 2000, Gutiérrez opened up his collection as a free library to the public. It didn’t take much time for word to spread and a horde of readers to pour in. Gutiérrez’s wife and children assisted him in expanding and managing the library, which now houses a mammoth collection with the help of pre-owned books donated by people.

“We have a blessed curse upon us. The more books we give away, the more come to us,” he had expressed.

The man behind it all also travels around the country to distribute free books among the underprivileged people in remote interiors, with limited access to education. At 56 years of age, he is now preparing for his school final examination.

Gutiérrez might be the frontrunner in building a library out of discarded books, but, amazingly, the trend has been picked up in other parts of the world by groups of Good Samaritans, young and old.

A children’s library by young Chinese sister duo

For instance, in China’s Henan province, two little sisters have collected books from junk and created a children’s library – perhaps one of the very few in the poverty-stricken and education-starved province reported Inkstone News.

12-year-old Wu Nannan and 10-year-old Wu Shike hail from one of the poorest parts of the country. They have to assist their family in work after school hours to earn a decent livelihood. The two siblings used to help their grandmother to collect and sell junk and scrap materials. That is where they chanced upon lots of thrown away books, magazines and newspapers – many of which were school textbooks. The girls stocked up the books in one room of the house and started inviting local children on holidays and weekends. Now it is a treasure trove for the little ones in the neighbourhood. A lot of them cannot afford new schoolbooks and borrow the same from this library.

The sisters’ library is receiving book donations from well-wishers, tallying their collection over 10,000. The local government has also acknowledged their incredible efforts and rewarded them with new bookshelves and furniture for the library.

Library by sanitation workers of Turkey

A group of sanitation workers from Turkey recently made headlines as the news of their library of discarded books surfaced on social media. As CNN reported, sanitation workers from the Turkish capital Ankara started saving discarded books a few years ago. As their collection piled up, they aimed to turn it into a library exclusively for the sanitation workers and their families. However, as word spread through the local community, they decided to open the library for the public in September 2017.

Housed at an abandoned brick factory, the library now comprises a collection of over 25,000 books of diverse genres, a sizeable proportion of which came from donations. The collection has been organised into 17 distinct categories, including children’s section or scientific research segment, each catering to a particular set of readers.

Inspired by the unprecedented success of the library, the workers’ group have started a mobile library with an old garbage truck, which delivers books to nearby schools and homes.

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‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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