The Capital of Annapolis

EDGEWATER, Md. (AP) — With a big assist from Parole Rotary, former Edgewater resident Robert Lieberman will fill the learning center he helped build outside Bangkok with books.

Books for International Goodwill, or B.I.G, the charitable arm of the Parole Rotary that distributes books to developing
countries, shipped 24,000 books to Lieberman this week.

The 1999 South River High School graduate, now 31, traveled to Thailand in 2008, and fell for the place. Six months later, he moved there.

“And that feeling has yet to wear off,” he said by email from Bangkok.

Since 2008 he and his girlfriend, Elaine Wong, a math specialist fluent in English and Cantonese, have created an English-language school called inClued, and recently built the learning center at the Wat Sao Thong School west of the capital city.

The school’s name “is admittedly a cheesy portmanteau of `include,’ as in we try to include everyone, and `clue,’ like being clued in,” Lieberman said.

With help from Dragonfly Community Foundation, a foundation raising money for small-scale, grass-roots development projects in Thailand, and, an educational software company, Lieberman and Wong helped build a learning center outside Bangkok.

It is a sustainable structure built with straw bales and mud, with a thatched roof.

Now the job is filling the center’s shelves with books.

Two years ago Lieberman applied to B.I.G, which donates unwanted books to schools and other organizations in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.

Since 1995, B.I.G. has shipped more than 4.2 million books overseas.

The Thai project was vetted and added to the list of projects. B.I.G. decided to foot the majority of the $5,000 shipping cost.

“The container has close to 25,000 books,” said Steve Frantzich, a U.S. Naval Academy professor and president of B.I.G.
The books vary from elementary and college texts to paperbacks and general reading.

Lieberman was overwhelmed by the organization’s generosity.

“They sent us over 20,000 books from 8,000 miles away, and paid for three-quarters of the shipping cost to boot,” he said. “I don’t know how we would have gotten the books together otherwise.”

On Tuesday Lieberman’s mother, Laura Lieberman, a librarian at the county library’s Annapolis branch for 21 years, and Frantzich loaded up a container with pallets full of books headed for Thailand.

“Robert truly believes reading is power,” Laura Lieberman said. “If people can learn to read, they will better understand
their government and get involved to improve it. If they can be educated in English as well, it will help them see the wider picture. That is what drives him.”

Her son concurred.

“Reading informs every aspect of your life: social, personal. spiritual, economic … Well, information does, really. But reading is still the best was to access with widest variety of information, whether in print or on the Internet or what
have you.”

But he prefers books, which provide easier access. “Books are great . they are pretty durable — and they never run out of

And in Thailand, English-language books are hard to find. Those teaching English clamor to get and keep books.

“English isn’t an easy language to learn,” Lieberman wrote in a brochure to help raise money to pay for the shipment and other activities. “Without instructional materials and books to practice reading, even the most enthusiastic students remain stuck in neutral.”

After the learning center is stocked, the remaining books will be distributed to other locations in Thailand. One is the learning center at the Wat Nak Prok temple, where adult literacy classes and computer skills are taught.

But Lieberman still has to raise the final $1,000 to pay for ground shipping from the port to temporary storage at the inClued facility, then out to various distribution points.

B.I.G. is holding its next book sale June 9 at its new warehouse in Annapolis at 2000B Capital Drive, off West Street and Gibraltar Avenue.

Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md.,

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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