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A library without books

Mortlock Island is located 250km far east of Bougainville, with a population of about four hundred people.
Its primary school was established in 1965. The school had a standalone library building with close to 8,000 books ranging from encyclopedias, maps and atlas, fiction and nonfiction, chemistry, agriculture, science, mathematics, journals, laws, novels and various other categories.
The library was a historical landmark for the people of Mortlock Island for over forty-eight years. With wear and tear on the books, the local islanders took great care and looked after the library as an important asset for the people on the island.
The library was the only source of enhancing learning and building knowledge capacity for the elementary and primary school students, the teachers and the local villagers too. Furthermore with the island’s remoteness, and lack of access to electricity, internet, television and daily news, the library was the only source that kept people well informed and educated about almost everything.
That was until 2008 and 2010, when the island was hit by king tides that completely destroyed the building and sadly, the books too. But that did not stop the people of Mortlock – they were determined to have their source of information restored.
In 2011, the community built a new library adjoining to one of the elementary classroom.
After eight years, the building still stands as a library without books. Numerous attempts to get possible funding from the Autonomous B o u g a i n v i l l e Government and the National Government through elected leaders remain negative.
In 2016 Mortlock Takuu Island Climate Change Association (MTICCA) Inc, one of the leading non-profitable NGO, contracted to the Atolls Islands of Bougainville under the Building Resilience to Climate Change program, made a commitment to seek possible assistance from international donor partners including their implementing agencies to donate books for the library.
MTICCA believed that the books played an important role in the community. Often at most times the atoll islands remain completely cut off from the rest of the world due to lack of shipping services and poor communication infrastructure making them the most isolated, disadvantaged and vulnerable atoll islands in the country.
In February this year, Unity Library through its donor partners in New Zealand heeded to the plight of the school children and community in Mortlock. Cartons filled with various kinds of reading books were donated to MTICCA’s CEO and Principal Consultant, David Marena. The books are waiting to be transported to the remote atoll island with an official launch program upon arrival.
Upon receiving the donation, Mr Marena expressed great satisfaction and thanked Unity Library’s staff that all the hard work and effort put in place to seek possible donors over the last three years has now come to fruition.
He says the donation of these valuable books will go to great lengths to improve the lives of the islanders and their students.
“By reading books, it helps to improve the ability of our students to speak English fluently. It increases the literacy rate as well which further makes them competent when they progress to secondary and tertiary levels,” he said.
For an isolated island like Mortlock, books are a treasure that the community can use to explore and discover new things that can also improve their lifestyles – like learning about food preservation methods because they don’t have access to electricity, or how to grow artificial coral reefs to help combat climate change issues they face on the island.
David says they look forward to receiving more book donations in the coming months.
“This will now fully equip Mortlock library making it the most advanced in the Bougainville,” he says proudly.
Visit the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) website to read and download the Bougainville Bulletin. You can click here to go straight to the document.

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