Cobourg Rotarians got a lot more than they expected from Julia (15) and Emma Mogus (14) at last Friday's Rotary meeting - and it was totally unexpected. Rotary International had declared April as World Literacy month, urging Rotarians world-wide to re-think their attitudes and actions in an effort to improve world-wide literacy. "Not our problem" - most Canadians would think. "Wrong" said the sisters who proceeded to prove their point most convincingly.
15 year old Julia and 14 year old Emma Mogus Co-founders of Books With No Bounds delivered a power message on the need to promote literacy to Rotarians attend last Friday's meetingJulia Mogus told Rotarians, "We learned that most First Nations Children are 3 to 4 years behind in literacy skills and many have no access to books. Suicide rates are high and many young people have simply lost hope. We decided then and there that something must be done, and that we were going to do it."
In March last year, Emma Mogus had served a term as an Ontario Legislative Page, and it was there she learned that the Aboriginal Summer Reading book Drive, started by then Ontario Governor General James Bartelman, in 2004, had been cancelled with no plans to resume. Emma told Rotarians, "We learned that current Lieutenant Governor David Onley had once said, 'Without books, children cannot truly become literate. Without books, they cannot dream great dreams, learn about the world outside their own small community, or imagine their place in that world'. This convinced us that every child deserves access to books - and not just in their homes, It was then we decided to found "Book With No Bounds" - a non-profit service to send books into Northern Ontario First Nations communities, said Emma.
"Recently we met with Ontario Grand Chief Stan Beardy and learned 'these children don't need a few books … they need a lot of books.' Since then we have had tremendous support from friends, local political figures and the Hopedale Mall in Oakville who provided us with a storefront drop-off location for books, which we then transfer to the basement of our home", said Emma. "Our one on-going problem has been the high cost of shipping these books into northern communities, many of which are accessible only by air. Any cash donations we receive go directly to meeting these high shipping costs," she continued.
The girls have now collected over 17,000 books of all types. Many have been packed and already shipped to eager recipients. Each shipment includes letters of introduction and support from the Mogus sisters. "You would be amazed at the touching letters we receive in return," Julia said. "Through these letters we try to let the kids know that there is someone who cares about them and that we can give them hope for a better future."
Julia is a grade 10 student and Emma is in a grade 9 at Oakville's White Oak Secondary School. Julia hopes to attend university to study aboriginal issues while Emma leans towards a Political Science degree.
Cobourg Rotary President Lynda Kay said after the meeting "These youngsters have raised the bar for Rotarians to follow in addressing world-wide literacy issues. They have demonstrated just what can be done when there is dedication and commitment to a cause, and in doing so have challenged Rotarians everywhere to do more."
Following their presentation Cobourg Rotarians responded by presenting the Mogus sisters with $1,500 to help with future shipping costs. The Rotary Club of Cobourg has also been active in the promotion of literacy in the community through $10,000 in financial support offered to The Cobourg Library, The Cobourg Festival of Poetry, as wells as the purchase of computers for learning disabled students in a local school. Internationally the Club has also contributed funds to promote literacy in Bangladesh and Guatemala.