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originally published January 2008

Samantha White called earlier this week to ask me to dj her charity event. I asked when it was hoping for this Friday and indeed it was so I happily accepted. Read on to find out about the more interesting side, the days before that led to this party. Living in a ten by twelve foot tent for 10 days straight.

What is the campaign?
Live-In for Literacy is happening at four universities in Canada from January 18th – 28th. While we’re living in the library, we’ll be collecting spare change and donations to aid Room-to-Read, an organization that builds libraries overseas.

Was there any involvement from here last year?
This is the second year but the first it’s gone national. Last year, students at Queens’ organized the event and it was insanely popular. This year, they’ve organized it again, but invited other universities across the country to get involved. Hopefully it’ll become an annual thing. The QEII and staff have been fantastic, so maybe they’ll be on board in the future. It’s really been an awesome partnership with them – librarians are rad!

How serious an issue is this?
Literacy issues are far more critical than people realize; internationally and locally. Nepal has one of the lowest literacy rates in Asia, with less than 37% of women and 65% of men having basic literacy skills. Newfoundland and Labrador has one of the lowest literacy rates in Canada, presenting unique challenges to overcome.

What made you decide to get involved?
I’m always for up for something wacky and Danielle is same. When you combine that with passion for literacy, there’s no question. We had to organize it and make sure MUN got involved. We weren’t always planning on being campers. We had organized the event, planning to have others camping. But, with schedule conflicts, it was difficult finding two people to commit for the entire 10 days. So, here we are.

Samantha and Danielle from SFL!

Samantha and Danielle from SFL!

How much work has been put into making this happen?
Organizing this and living in the library has become more than a full-time job in addition to regular school work. It’s crazy. I almost can’t wait for it to be over so we can take a break! No really, it’s been awesome and we’ve got a great executive at Students for Literacy (SFL) doing lots as well.

Are you nervous about living in a small space for so long?
Honestly, the bigger issue’s more important. If this is what it takes to draw attention to literacy, then we’ve got to. Living in a tent in the lobby of the QEII will be an adventure. Probably boring sometimes too – I imagine I’ll get a lot of homework done. I’ve known Danielle for years through our work with SFL, so we’re not worried.

What kind of reactions are you getting?
Reactions have been across the board. The majority have been supportive. Faculty, staff and students have been incredible. People love the campaign but admit they think we’re a little crazy for actually doing it. Some professors and lab instructors aren’t keen on us missing class, but I think they may have more sympathy when we’re actually living there.

What do you do to contribute to finding solutions?
We’re both on the executive of SFL – a campus-based, student-run volunteer organization with a 15-member executive and an 80+ volunteer base. We recruit, train and screen volunteers to send out to programs at about a dozen community partners on campus, around St. John’s and surrounding areas. All our partners work with vulnerable populations – dropouts, new Canadians, low-income centres. We’re hoping the Live-In will attract more volunteers and potentially establish a funding base as well because we’re struggling to meet demands with growing needs.

Are there other activities going on that people should be aware of?
One of the biggest events we’ve planned to raise money is Get Lei’d for Literacy at the Breezeway on January 25th; only $5.00 cover and all proceeds go towards literacy.

If people want to get involved, how can they help?
Anyone can give spare change, a donation, or bring snacks while we’re in there – it’s going to be hard to eat; we can only leave for anything on allotted 5-minute breaks! They can also drop by SFL and help man the donation table and put up posters.

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