DAVAO CITY – Apart from preaching the gospel, a Korean missionary couple is on parallel mission to promote the love of reading books especially among school children not just in this city but also in other parts of Mindanao as well.
A STAFF of the Kangaroo Book Club repairs used books inside its office in Davao City on Thursday, August 24, 2023. Collected by Korean missionary Jaeyong Bae, these will be distributed to different public schools in the city. (Keith Bacongco)
Jaeyong and Sandy Bae, who both arrived in this city in 2011, have been donating used books to public schools for years.
Four years later, Bae, along with his wife Sandy, founded the Kangaroo Book Club, a community library that mainly caters to less-privileged school children.
The couple, who belongs to the Presbyterian Church of Korea, said the book donation drive is also his advocacy work to promote book reading among children.
In 2013, the couple moved to Zamboanga City to continue their missionary work.
During his stint in Zamboanga City, they also donated books to some public schools.
However, he felt so frustrated when he discovered that there are no bookstores in the city. “Aside from the books that were shipped from Korea, some books were purchased in Manila.”
Thus, they decided to move back to this city sometime in 2016.
Recently, Manila Bulletin caught up with Jaeyong rummaging through the boxes of used books inside a dusty and humid warehouse that also sells used farm machineries, refurbished appliances, used clothing, and kitchenware.
“We are giving away these books for free to public school libraries,” Jaeyong told Manila Bulletin, adding that he is mainly searching for books that are suitable for both elementary and high school students.
Each used book usually costs P20 to P35 each. But Zee, the owner, is giving Bae a huge discount for his charity work.
According to Zee, the Korean national is his only bulk buyer of books. “There are other customers here who are also buying books but only in a few pieces. But Jaeyong buys several boxes. That’s why I’m giving him the first priority to dig through the boxes of books every time fresh supplies arrive.”
Love for books
In 2015, they established the community library known as Kangaroo Book Club.
Since then, the couple have donated thousands of books to almost 30 public schools in this city and several other schools in other provinces of Mindanao.
“Maybe, safe to say that we have already donated about 100,000 books to different public schools,” Jaeyong said in an interview at their rented house, where thousands of books are stored and have yet to be distributed.
The Korean missionary admitted that his love for books is what motivates him to give them to children.
He added that he wanted to promote the love for books among children just like what he has learned during his childhood in his home country.
His wife, Sandy, translated the entire Holy Bible into an illustrated 76-volume Bisaya version. “We are also giving this set to the schools but the teachers have to undergo a workshop first so that they would know how to use these books.”
She added that they wanted to contribute in developing the reading habits of Filipino school children.
However, they are saddened that only those who have enough money can afford to buy books from the commercial book stores.
“Books here are very expensive. The poor children do not have access to quality books because these are too expensive,” the Korean pastor lamented.
Looking for donors
The couple disclosed that they are buying about 90 percent of the books from local shops while the rest are from their different donors.
“We have a regular donor from the US, an 80-year-old Filipina. She collects the books and ships them to us almost every month. That’s already a big help,” Jaeyong disclosed.
Sandy said that they are still looking for more book donors to be able to provide more books to less privileged school children.
But before turning over the books to the schools, a staff repairs their torn covers, pages, and spines.
Then Jaeyong sorts the books if it is for elementary students or for high school students.
With just a few days before classes open, the Korean missionary disclosed that they are now preparing a new set of books and bookshelves for public schools in this city.
He added that they are usually donating about 2,000 to 3,000 books to every school and it comes with bookshelves.
Jaeyong bared their only requirement to be able to avail of books – a room and a librarian.
“There should be someone who should look after books. We wanted them to take care of the books. There’s one school that we gave about a thousand books before and now there’s only about a hundred left. We don’t want that to happen.”
While it is frustrating to see that some books are either gone or destroyed, he admitted that it’s part of the challenge in promoting his advocacy on books. “But you have to keep going, keep on encouraging the children to read.”
“Children who read have a future. Children who read have hope. Put away the cell phone and read books instead. Today's child who reads will become a leader in the future,” the 54-year-old missionary said.