A law student whose life changed after she visited Nepal following its 2015 earthquake is holding a fundraising dinner on 1 May for a village library she’s helping build.
Christina Lee has two goals for her 21st century library in Batase, north of Kathmandu: combat human trafficking, and educate local children.
“Every day more than 54 young girls and women are trafficked out of Nepal to enter a life of slavery,” the B Laws / B Arts (Human Rights) second-year student explains.
“Batase village is a target to many traffickers, because of the lack of access to information.
“We have also found that a lack of education, illiteracy and poverty are also the causes as these people are the most vulnerable to misinformation, manipulation and deception.”
Christina first visited Batase in 2016, then approached Paris-based group Libraries Without Borders for help to build a library.
She began an internship with the non-governmental organisation, whose staff agreed to try their first project targeting human trafficking in Nepal by using a virtual and a physical library.
“We’ll use their KoomBook device, which is roughly the size of a book and creates a wi-fi hotspot which users can connect with their devices to access resources such as the Khan Academy, TED talks, Wikipedia, and a curated selection of an e-library.
“We are also creating a physical library building with real books in Nepalese and English, to create a safe space for awareness workshops, a cinema with entertainment and activities – with a fully-trained and funded local librarian.”
Children wanting to access the internet via KoomBook will have to first answer questions that traffickers typically ask their potential victims. The children will then see videos explaining the reality of accepting offers that are too good to be true.
“We will break the cycle by decreasing the vulnerability,” Christina says.
“If these girls are less vulnerable, in the sense, more educated, more aware, they will be able to make more informed decisions as they will have access to essential information through a digital library, higher quality educational support.
“If we intervene before they are convinced with the false promises of hope, we can make a difference.
“The traffickers cannot take them if they do not say ‘yes I will go with you’”.
Christina’s not doing this alone. In December she plans to take 15 volunteers from ANU with her to build the library and train locals.
But first, she has to raise A$10,000 before July to complete the physical library, and buy the KoomBook device.
Formerly from Cairns, Christina’s project was boosted after she received the $5,000 Philippa Weeks Scholarship.
“The scholarship has supported me a lot to participate in wonderful opportunities such as the internship with Libraries Without Borders, as it was an unpaid internship.
“I truly believe that scholarships like this one is very important for regional students, and I am very grateful that I was granted this opportunity.”