Small Effort, Big Effect

I met Mulbah earlier this year in his hometown.  He is a Liberian college student in his early twenties who has spent most of his life coping with the twenty years of civil war that ravaged his country through 2003.  Mulbah is a persistent guy.  Though we initially spoke for less than ten minutes, as I was rushing off to our next meeting, Mulbah made sure to collect my contact information so that he could keep the conversation going.  Before I had even made it back home to California I had this e-mail waiting for me [ed.: misspellings kept, sic neglected]:

Dear Justin,
I am very happy to extend my sincere greeting to you, including your family members, love one, friends and the entire Better World .
Sir, you give me your call card including you E-mail address at the ALPP/ Creative Associates International Inc. office which is commonly called Bong LRC during your trip to Africa for Vision In Action, Million Books Match for Africa.
Justin, you and are got into conversation but we did not end due to your busy schedule, that is I graduated since 2004-2005, and I started my Freshman Courses at the Cuttington University, Suakoko, Bong County but due to lack of finance I drop from school and my parents don’t have money to sponser my education. […]

It’s Mulbah [redacted].

He wanted to know if I could help him find a scholarship to continue his study of economics at Cuttington University – one of the schools that has received books through the partnership between Better World Books, USAID, and Vision In Action.  Though I did not have the personal means to help him pay for college I wanted to find a way to help him continue his education.

Liberia is starving for books.  During the civil war nearly all of the books in the country were used as fuel for fires, libraries and schools were torn apart to harvest the scrap metal for weapons production, and many of the most educated and successful people in the country left forever because they feared for their lives.  Bas a result, there is a serious ‘book famine’ which keeps people like Mulbah from accessing information that could radically transform his life.

I decided to send some books to Mulbah.  It’s great to work for a company like Better World Books that makes it easy and inexpensive to send a book to literally any corner of the world.  I sent two economics books to Mulbah in two separate shipments – I wanted to see if they would actually arrive.  One made it, the other didn’t.

Dear Justin,

Thanks you and your family for the book sent last month the 20 of May 2008.
To be audacious to you I received it succeswsfully today the 27 of May 2008, therefore may the Lord our God bless you and your family.

Justin, I appreciate the book you sent to be specific Economics, A self Teaching Guide this wounderful book is rich and I am sure that I will read it to the best of my ability and achieve what I wish to achieve, Meanwhile, I have been wishing to have advanced Economics book like this. You did not make a mistake okay.

Here comes the order numbers and the Title of the book: Economics A Self Teaching Guide, order No. 2735151. But, as per the order Email sent to me the last time, one of the book was left out, it is consider missing in Transit? Because I was Email by you that, the End of Poverty Economics possibilities for our Time was to come alone with this book, Economic A Self Teaching Guide  to my surprise only one came so please find out from [email protected], I did not receive this book.

Justin, I will Email you in one week time for the photo of the book in order to be trustful or convince.

I have more thanks and appreciation to come pretty soon but this is urgent just to remind you about the situation. By God grace you will receive comprehensive letter from me.

God will bless you and your family at your working places, and God will bless your families, you will never be the tail but rather be the head of all activities both in you community and your working places.

Mulbah soon began sharing this book with others in his community, and students started looking to him for assignments:

Good Afternoon Justin?

Sorry for long time no communication it is due to the up and down movement in and around the Nation capital Monrovia.

Justin, My ideas and toughts about the BWB is fine and I am taking the advangage of it to read through out the night because of this book students in and around my communities appreciate the effort a lot, Majority of them come to me for assignment and because of this book I am able to do their assignment for them as well. As I told you that the book is rich not only in words but also in meaning.

My knowledge about this Economics since the arrival date up to now are: I have been able to study on the following topics: Market and the type of markets, monopoly, oligolopoly, Demand and Supply, the Equilibium of demand and supply, Taxization, Barter system, Money the function of money, Banking system and Percentage of price of the goods and commodity.

Justin, this book will help me a lot, I will utilized this book up to the beginnig of university freshmen to graduation. Let met share my experience with you while I was in the senior class 12 grade, my Physics instructor told me “Mulbah, do not feel because you are scoring 85%, 95% in physics to do physics at the University, physics will make you to spend a lot time in University but try to do Economics which will make yo to spend 4 years and obtain your degree instead of you spending 5-6 years, reason he said this was you don’t have sponser and you are from the poor family so from here I started growing interest in Economics this is how I took Economics to be my lovely Subject and praying to obtain my degree in Economics if possibility exist.

Have a good day Justin.

We have been in regular touch and have sent upwards of 50 e-mails back and forth about everything from the ‘4th of July holiday’ in the United States, to Mulbah’s brief struggles with a bout of dysentery (he’s fine now).  We have connected, and continued to foster a relationship, through literacy.  He recently sent 3 photographs to me as a token of his appreciation (scanned in this post).  It is pretty amazing to hold a letter in your hands that has just arrived to your house from rural Liberia.

A couple of weeks ago I shipped a few more books to Mulbah.  They have not arrived yet, but I’m hoping that the Liberian postal system can make it happen.  Without Better World Books this would never have been possible.

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