Imagine children, some as old as 17, who have never held a book – never read a book in their own language …

Liesel Briggs and her daughter Rosemarie have handed books to children in Nepal and India. Their passion is to provide “books and basics”.

Where did this passion come from?

Liesel has volunteered her time for years. Then she heard about Linh Son Orphanage, in Nepal, from a friend.

The two have fundraised (about $2,000, to date) for first-language literacy: books for children, in their own language and for basics: blankets, food, winter clothing for children …

“Both of us had already spent quite a bit of time in India and in Nepal,” Rosemarie says, where there is “such desperation”.

“Profound need,” Liesel adds. “I can’t close my eyes and pretend … when I see such need.”

“Of course,” Rosemarie adds, “you’re not fixing anything … but if you put one small drop in a bucket …” She has seen children begging – children shining shoes – “the ones dressed in rags; the ones that tug on your arms …”

Rosemarie and Liesel bring an album filled with pictures – children in unbelievable poverty – children gathered in groups, standing or sitting on the ground, holding books and not looking at the camera at all.

“I get choked up when I start thinking about it,” Rosemarie says, her voice breaking, true to her words. “Whatever position they were in, when they received a book, is the position they started reading in.

“To see the kids … to see their excitement and wonder—”

“We were in tears,” her mother finishes.

The women are raising funds to establish school libraries in Nepal and India – libraries with fairy tales and current-interest books. Liesel says there’s a book about Diana; Rosemarie adds that the children love books about Bollywood stars. There’s general-knowledge books, fiction and non-fiction books …

“I had a teacher come up to me and ask, ‘Do you have one book for my school?'” Liesel says.

One book.

One book costs one dollar – less than it costs for a cup of coffee.

Rosemarie flips through the album to a picture of children at school – “a beggars’ school” – in northern India. Children, who picked through garbage before coming to school, smile as they hold red “shopping bags” (Rosemarie taught them to sew).

“Oh … ‘begging bags’,” Rosemarie laughs as she remembers the children’s name for the shopping bags. (The children’s families are beggars or transient farmers and most pick through garbage to find things to sell.)

Rosemarie continues, “When I said they got to keep them, they couldn’t believe it … they were so excited just about sewing.”

Liesel and Rosemarie hope that learning these kinds of skills will open doors of opportunity.

“It gives them self-esteem, too,” Liesel adds.

Liesel and Rosemarie are planning their return trip to Nepal and India in September or October.

“It’s tiring; it’s expensive; it’s time-consuming – but we love it,” Rosemarie says with a smile that says it’s well worth it.

On Saturday, April 18, local musicians will entertain at a dance-a-thon/fundraiser from 5 p.m. to midnight at Mount McIntyre. To learn more about providing “books and basics” for children in Nepal and India, you can call Rosemarie and Liesel Briggs at 668-7082.