Well, it helps when you have a librarian. Sambat Trust is fortunate to have that and more in Zarah Gagatiga.
We all know the stereotype of “the librarian”, often pictured as an elderly, severe looking, pinched nose, glasses wearing, fearful creature who glares and says, “Shhhhhush!”
Zarah is none of these. Instead she is a smiling, bubbly, and powerful advocate for libraries - and the life changing opportunities that they represent.
Trained as a school librarian, a position that she fulfills full-time at an IB school outside of Manila, she also works hard as an advocate through many organizations, serving on boards and conducting workshops for students, librarians and teachers in an effort to improve the standards of education in the Philippines and beyond.
It is a process that starts with meeting teachers and administrators from the selected schools. During these meetings she stresses the importance in getting the local community involved, building a library is not just a process of installing books, it is also about building a space. The space needs to be prepared and feel welcoming, there should be adequate and appropriate shelving, but there also needs to be a level of comfort that is inviting – and this is something that the community needs to create!
-She is transporting her audience (children and adult) to an experience outside their own.
-She is demonstrating how libraries can be used as a lively resource for learning and personal growth [not just warehouses with librarian-custodians]
-She is giving a positive and inspiring example to teachers who are often overworked and underappreciated.
I think it would be fair to say that she loves books. She loves stories and is inspired herself by their transformative gifts.
Her work with Sambat Trust brings her to Batangas at least twice a month, usually making the 1-2 hour trip by public transport.
Once there she networks with local individuals and organizations to lend their support to the work of Sambat Trust, she trains teachers to be creative with their limited resources, and evaluates schools to help them understand how to create and use a library.
She recognizes and honors the struggles of her teacher colleagues and does her best to support them in their own quest for learning – knowing that the spark of excitement that they experience is something that they will pass on to their students.
“I love books and I want to share this love to others. Being involved in Sambat Trust's projects help me manifest this goal. It is always a joy to see kids reading. Some say, it's a passive activity, but a child reading is an active learner. Notice the reaction a child has when reading. With an open book, the child is actively engaged with the creators of the book. The fun part is for the child to express and share his reading experience with another, maybe a teacher, a parent or a friend.
I know I can do book donations on my own, and conduct trainings through different organizations. However, Sambat Trust's school library initiatives begin at the grass roots. It's not a big NGO or charity. It's the little NGO/charity that could.
It's inspiring to see community leaders, school leaders and parents pool their resources and work together to build a school library. It's amazing to see the wonder in kids' faces and the joy in teachers' eyes when they open a box of books delivered to their school. They're so happy! To see people happy, makes me happy.”
She’s off to face another day of inspiring and educating others of the transformative power of books.