Aussie Actress Brings Books to Zambia

Guest post by Australian actress Katherine Wallace

I was a rebellious child. When politely asked to stop reading and put away my book for such trifles as going to bed, I would stoutly refuse. This initially resulted in forcible removal of the book and prompt lights out.

Fortunately, I have never been one for giving up. I decided the fittest course of action was to surreptitiously sneak it under my pillow with the handy addition of a flashlight. I made sure to do so well before bedtime then bade a sweetly innocent good night. Nobody suspected a thing. With a small thrill of breaking the rules pulsing in my veins, I silently whipped out both book and flashlight. I carefully lifted the pages open with one finger and flicked my little light toward the words.

Immediately, a small yell came from the bed below. I hadn’t taken into account that sharing a bunk bed with my younger brother, Michael, could foil all my genius. The moment my mother opened the door, he sold me out. The book was again forcibly removed, along with the flashlight.

I now had to contend with a spy in the room and his comrade in the next room. My tactics had been revealed. Undeterred, I retrieved my belongings and attempted to read under the covers, under the pillow, in absolute silence. But I continually failed as my brother would call out when he heard a page turn or saw the dim light shining above him. I hid the book and flashlight under my pillow when I heard my mother’s footsteps and denied any heinous accusations coming from the lower bunk. For several nights this worked, until I was asked to remove my pillow. My mother simply took them away each night and I continued to hide them anyway.

My genius came right before I was once again asked to lift up my pillow. I had been reading some fantastic story, absorbed in worlds far away from my bedroom in Australia, when the familiar calling out from below brought me back. Without even thinking, I flung the two objects in the middle of the bed and lay flat on my back on top of them. Being careful to shift only my head, I lifted my pillow to reveal nothing but a sheet stretched across the mattress. My poor brother knew I had been reading but could not prove it. This time, he was told to go to sleep and I finally continued reading long into the night. I got away with this for a long time.

I believe every child deserves the gift of literacy. I would like to bring literacy to children living at the UNCHR’s refugee camp in Meheba, Zambia through a volunteer placement with the Book Bus from July 7 – July 28, 2012. The Meheba refugee settlement is home to refugees from all over Africa including Angola, Rwanda and Congo. The Book Bus partners with half a dozen primary schools within the settlement and works with children who have escaped the turmoil of their home countries. There are over 5,000 children at the settlement and some attend school whilst others do not. The Book Bus been working in partnership with the UNHCR in Meheba since 2009 and, with the volunteers, has made a huge impact in the schools.

Just as Roald Dahl’s Matilda found solace and wisdom; just as Sara, in A Little Princess, found magic; so I found courage, possibilities and determination in books. After researching the lives of children who have survived the violent conflicts in Africa, I am deeply inspired by their resilience.

In the United States, I have volunteered with the Outreach Program, a free theatre training program run by the Stella Adler Studio for inner-city youth, during which time I have seen the extraordinary impact that arts education provides for children.

By good fortune of circumstance, I will be enjoying this summer as a nomad. This means I am able to use July’s rent and living expense money for a placement with the Book Bus instead. In order to get on a plane from New York to Zambia (and back!), I am fundraising at:

So you can get to know the person behind the cause you’re supporting, I have filmed a video for my fundraising campaign. You can view it here and on the above link.

Katherine Wallace is a young Australian actress training at The Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York City. She has long been inspired by many people and organizations, particularly the humanitarian work of Angelina Jolie. She supports the UNHCR, the Book Bus, UNICEF, Amnesty, Joyful Heart Foundation, To Write Love On Her Arms, Greenpeace, The Nature Conservancy, PETA, GetUp!, Animals Australia and The Australian Childhood Foundation.

The turning point of deciding to pursue this project came to her from the Harold Clurman Laboratory Theater Company’s production of Colin Greer’s “Imagining Heschel”, directed by Tom Oppenheim.

Katherine is deeply grateful to all those who inspire faith in our humanity.

*Note* The above guest post is from the Australian actress and activist, Katherine Wallace. This content does not necessarily reflect the views of Better World Books (as our lawyers make sure we say). We love having guest bloggers and invite you to email if you are interested in covering a book or topic on the BWB Blog. Thank you, Katherine, we cannot wait for a follow-up post this summer!

If you could volunteer with the Book Bus, would you? Do you have any questions for Katherine?

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