Hope College Brings Hope to Rwanda – One Book at a Time

Last year, Earth Day was observed by more than 1 billion people in 192 countries. This worldwide event, celebrated today, inspires people to come together in an effort to reduce environmental destruction, and provide for an Earth that future generations can enjoy.

But, for many, sustainability is something to be celebrated throughout the year. Hope-Geneva Bookstore at Hope College is one such store, who believes they should initiate eco-friendly solutions as often as possible.

Owens, who visited the Rwanda orphanage for four weeks as a part of his studies, brought t-shirts sporting the name of his college, and the ideal that his organization is trying to spread: Hope.

So, for the past three years, they’ve offered students the option to recycle their textbooks through OnePlanet Books. Bonnie Washburn, MBS Representative, clued the store into the offering and they were eager to implement it.

“The best part about the program is that it’s easy,” explained Mary Deenik, textbook manager. “We explored other options, but so much of the money was lost in administrative costs. This program allows us to gain the most revenue, so we can have the most significant impact on the causes that we support. Plus, we’ve worked with MBS for years and it’s a company we trust, so can say without a doubt where the money comes from and where it goes.”

For the first couple terms, the store reinvested the funds earned through OnePlanet Books into the store. But, when a student approached them with the idea of donating to Rwanda, an area of the world that is desperately in need of support, the store’s staff was eager to help in any way they could.

In 1994, Rwanda was the site of genocide. Tragically, approximately one million individuals were killed in a little over three months. This terrifying event decimated the country’s economic base, impoverishing the population. As a result, many children were left without families to raise them.

Daniel Owens, senior at Hope College, is an active member of the Be Hope project, an on-campus organization that has worked in conjunction with the Nibakure Children’s Village (NCV), a nonprofit dedicated to providing resources to the orphaned children of Rwanda, since 2008 to build and support an orphanage.

In 2011, Owens joined the cause as an intern and began searching for new ways to generate resources for the orphanage.

“I got to thinking, our school always has book buyback, but sometimes, the books can’t be bought back and students are upset that they have nowhere to take their book,” he explained. “What if we gave students the opportunity to do something positive with it?”

From there, Owens approached Deenik and pitched his idea. OnePlanet Books immediately came to mind and a partnership was quickly formed.

“Daniel and other members of the organization setup the table near our buyback, and staffed the whole thing,” Deenik said. “They were very proactive about it; for instance, they contacted different professors on campus, and many showed up with boxes full of books! It’s amazing what they’re able to collect, while still juggling finals during the same week.”

According to Deenik, the whole campus came together to show their support for the cause.

“The cooperation we’ve received is amazing,” she described. “Our deans, faculty, staff and students have really stepped up and gotten involved. For example, one of our custodians finds unclaimed books, which she collects and brings to the store throughout the year. The way everyone unites is truly wonderful.”

The Book Drive has raised well over $1000 to contribute to the cause during the bi-annual events hosted during buyback. A large part of that success is due to the fact that the store has offered to match any funds that Owens and the Be Hope project raise, dollar for dollar.

“Mary has been generous and supportive throughout the process; we’re very grateful,” Owens emphasized. “The Book Drive is a mutually beneficial experience because it fills a need at the bookstore and for our organization. It’s a great way for us to spread awareness to students about the work that we’re doing and the store is able to offer a positive alternative to throwing away textbooks. It helps the store, it helps the students and, most importantly, it helps Rwanda.”

“We feel good about it! It gives me peace of mind knowing that I am disposing of no value books in a responsible manner and helping a great cause at the same time,” Deenik added. “The best part is that the orphanage receives every penny that is raised. I hope the Book Drive only continues to grow from here.”

For Owens, the funds raised during the drive have special meaning. He spent four weeks at the orphanage in Rwanda as a part of the Mellon Scholars Program, allowing him to see firsthand the true impact each dollar has for the children who call it home.

“Our mission isn’t to save an orphanage, it’s to empower the children there with opportunities,” he explained. “We allocate the money we raise to suit their specific needs. For instance, the money from this year’s Book Drive went to support Internet access.”

Unsurprisingly, Owens says the experience of living alongside the 17 children who reside in the orphanage was a life-changing one.

“It was a truly fascinating experience,” he said. “I learned far more by going there than I could ever give back; it was amazing.”

And, it all started with a book.

Imagine what your store could turn no value books into; contact your MBS Representative to learn how OnePlanet Books can earn your store revenue that can be reinvested into your campus or a cause of your choosing. Happy Earth Day!

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