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Camping out for literacy

J.T. McVeigh - Barrie Examiner
J.T. McVeigh Photo - Leslie-Anne Thoms, left, and Abbi MacDonald catch up on some reading, Monday, in the library as the two Laurentian University anthropology majors camp out in the Georgian College Library to raise money to help fund the construction of libraries in developing countries.

J.T. McVeigh Photo - Leslie-Anne Thoms, left, and Abbi MacDonald catch up on some reading, Monday, in the library as the two Laurentian University anthropology majors camp out in the Georgian College Library to raise money to help fund the construction of libraries in developing countries.

Algonquin Park this isn't.

No towering jack pines, no soaring vistas, no moose.

Tucked away in their bright red tent, Leslie-Anne Thoms and Abbi MacDonald have soaring floor to ceiling windows, towering lights that stay on 24 hours, a live webcam feed and a steady stream of traffic as they look out from their temporary shelter tucked away in a quiet corner of the Georgian College library.

The Laurentian students are camping in the library until Thursday to raise money and awareness for less fortunate students they will never meet, half way around the world.

Thoms and MacDonald, both third year anthropology majors of the Laurentian University campus at Georgian college, have joined with students at six universities on nine campuses across Canada. The group of students are raising funds for Live-in for Literacy, a student-driven charity that funds the construction of school libraries, and other educational facilities in developing countries.

"It started in 2006 at Queen's University," said Thoms, "I saw a story on it in the Laurentian paper when I was in Sudbury (Laurentian's main campus) last year and I thought it would be a good idea to try here, and to start a friendly competition between the two campuses."

Since 2006, the campaign has raised over $120,000, money which has been used to build nine libraries in Nepal, five libraries in India, a computer lab in Cambodia, and publish 10,000 local language children's books in India.

For MacDonald, the fundraising idea was an easy sell.

"Leslie introduced the idea to me and I said I would love to join," said MacDonald with a laugh. "But in retrospect, I didn't realize how difficult camping in the library would be."

As she says this, a long line of culinary students walk past their tent. Some throw a glance the women's way and walk on.

Just about all of the computers are taken in the lab part of the library where a constant hum of whispered conversations filters over the tent, while the stairway has constant traffic heading to the upper floors.

"The lights are always on, which is kind of irritating," said MacDonald, "The cleaners came in last night when we were trying to sleep. They caused quite a ruckus."

"But it's all for a good cause," Thoms reminded her laughing. "And it's totally worth it."

"The idea of camping is awesome, and we have had so many people come by telling us that they always wanted to live in a library for a night and they didn't think that this would ever be possible."

A big positive for the two anthropology students is any books purchased for the library projects will be published in their local languages.

Their study of anthropology has taught them to be culturally aware that it's important any books purchased are of that nation's culture and language and that the libraries aren't stocked with English language castoffs.

More heartwarming for the women was the response from local businesses and colleagues at the school.

"Midland Foodland gave us a whole week's worth of food so that we wouldn't go hungry," said Thoms.

MacDonald remembers the student who brought them half a pizza because they didn't know if the women had food to eat.

"We had hoped to raise $2,500, but I think we will push the total to $5,000 so that we could build the whole library," said Thoms, adding, "I think that that goal is possible."

The Live-In for Literacy campers will be in the Georgian College library until Thursday afternoon. To check them out visit, www.liveinforliteracy.com.

jmcveigh@thebarrieexaminer.com



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