The Power of books to change lives

MILLY - NORCROSS, Georgia
Entered on December 31, 2008

The 2005 release of the Chronicles of Narnia was a full circle moment for me. As the airwaves buzzed with excitement of the movie’s release- I could not help but feel nostalgic. The news brought back fond memories of childhood, memories of books, and of my love for reading. And how reading books had changed my life.

Growing up as a young girl in Africa- reading books was not exactly the favorite pastime for many children my age. Typical to custom, my family was large and extended – with enough siblings, cousins, chores and activities to distract any six year-old.

Yet, even in this environment, I was drawn to books. Perhaps it was because of my father who encouraged me to read. The way he looked at it, reading was my only way out. Education was the ticket that would lift me out of poverty. It was the secret to a better life; a life which even he, only hoped for and had never quite seemed to accomplish for his own family.

The desire to please him fueled my passion for reading. And I read everything. Much of it was borrowed, but that did not matter. I read Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, the Hardy boys, Uncle Arthur’s bedtime stories and everything I could find through my growing network of friends.

The more I read, the more my mind expanded, with possibility of what life could be. It was like magic.

And the most awe-inspiring of all was CS Lewis’ the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It’s hard to say what made this one special; but it affected me in a whole new way.

Perhaps it was the idea of a young girl sitting on a dusty mat in 90 degree tropical heat traveling -through a wardrobe- to this far away land of snow and talking animals! It was utterly captivating. All of a sudden I knew that I could escape, I could have different experiences, and I could be a part of a unique world so different from my own. And all this simply by opening the pages of a book!

Books became my respite; the perfect solution of coping with a world I could not understand. As I grew older, books motivated me to dream and work towards a life so far from my reality.

So today- after several years of education, I find myself working with an international humanitarian group- CARE- that works in different ways to create lasting change in the lives of poor people around the world. From Kabul to Kampala, we partner with others to provide health care, build schools and inspire both the young and old to dream and work for a better life.

As I watched the Chronicles of Narnia in Atlanta that December, I remembered how it all started. The memories were like an affirmation for what I have known for long. My belief that books; through their imaginative and creative power; can indeed transform lives-as they did mine.