It Takes a Village, a City…a State!

(Julie Du Brow, our PR Representative and Blog Editor, tells me that I should write 300-500 words in my blog posts—sorry, Julie, this one is a BIT longer, because it involves thanking some of the many people who have worked so hard to make WIJABA a success).

Editor’s Note: How can I possibly argue with that?? Enjoy this long, but wonderful update and acknowledgement from our Founder, James Owens.

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In May, I returned to Indonesia. It was a busy and inspirational trip, to say the list, during which I visited The World is Just a Book Away (WIJABA) projects in three locations on three islands: Denpasar, Bali; Sidoarjo, Java; and Padang, Sumatra. During this trip I:

James with children at 5K Library Opening

Presided over the opening of The World is Just a Book Away 5K Library (2011) in Padang (built with funds raised at the first annual WIJABA 5K, run by 161 people on the USC campus in April).

Launched our 2nd Mobile Library.
Opened 2 Parents’ Libraries.
Initiated our 1st Named Chair and Named Table projects (chairs named in someone’s honor in recognition of a $50 donation and tables named in someone’s honor in recognition of a $100 donation).

In the midst of this whirlwind (superbly organized and executed by WIJABA Indonesia Country Manager Robert Lucas), I found myself reflecting on a point that often comes to my mind: How is WIJABA possible? How has so much happened in such little time?

I still recall sitting with Andru Subowo in the Cheesecake Factory in West Los Angeles over tea in 2008, deciding to launch our first projects in Indonesia (without Andru’s commitment, time, dedication, and resources, WIJABA would not be in Indonesia). Now, 2.5 years after our official inauguration as an organization and just 2 years after our first 10 libraries were launched in Indonesia, we have launched or funded 53 Libraries at schools in Indonesia (serving children who had little to no access to books), 2 Mobile Libraries (that will ultimately serve thousands of children at more than 50 additional schools), and 11 Parents’ Libraries (at the request of the children’s parents, who also had little to no access to books).

To summarize, the projects and programs launched or funded in our first 2 years of operation:

1 Photography Program (the first of many to be run through schools)
2 Mobile Libraries (reaching thousands of children—our largest collective projects)
11 Parents’ Libraries
53 Libraries
100+ Schools Served
25,000+ Children Provided with Access to Books
45,000+ Books

Each time I see or write about these statistics, I reflect yet again on how it is possible. And, as I reflect, the old African proverb, “it takes a village” often comes to mind. Only, in the case of WIJABA, I wonder if it has taken a village, a city, or a state…

As Founder and CEO of WIJABA, I find that people often focus on me, as if I waved some sort of magic wand to bring about WIJABA’s success. Don’t get me wrong, I have worked hard…very, very hard. I founded WIJABA and continue to work hard to carry out the work that I know I am meant to do to help WIJABA grow and serve the children. In fact, we still don’t have a full-time staff person in the US (Robert Lucas will assume that role in September). However, the reason we have experienced so much success is not a case of I—it is a case of WE— involving scores of people who have joined us in one way or another to create an organization dedicated to bringing books to children, building libraries, developing programs, and fostering hope.

In fact, so many people have participated in projects to help the children that it would be impossible to name them all, let alone the hundreds of donors ranging in age from 4 to 80+. But, I would like to recognize a few of those people now, and I also hope that they too will be able to one day visit the libraries and see the real, tangible change and joy their hard work has brought into the lives of children.

This Village, City, State….that has made The World is Just a Book Away such a resounding success includes (but is by no means limited to):

WIJABA Chairman:
Emilio (who is a constant source of creativity, calm in the midst of growth, and a true pillar of WIJABA).

WIJABA Advisory Board:
Andru Subowo, Francesca Fartaj, Jenny Ming, Jim Ellis, Riz Khan, Roselle Chartock, Rudy Crew, and Tim Monich (who are a wealth of knowledge and who draw upon their experience to provide us with strategic guidance and resources).

WIJABA Founding Board Members:
Audrey, Chris, Greg, Jared, Jonathan, Josiah, Michael, Michelle, Nina, Punit, Robin, Sabine, Steve, and Todd. (It is impossible to delineate all the ways in which our Board has ensured WIJABA’s success. WIJABA Board members work so hard to set the strategy, develop the marketing plan, create programs, and manage the organization that I would have to write a second blog to cover their work. Moreover, they have demonstrated unwavering patience as we set procedures to deal with all the unknowns and stumbling blocks that go hand-in-hand with the entrepreneurial growth WIJABA has experienced).

WIJABA Ambassadors:
Adam, Adam, Angela, Arjun, Atul, Casey, Claire, David, Heather, Jared, Jeff, Jesse, Jennifer, Jessica, Kathleen, Liz, Michael, Nazita, Raya, Rizo/Arezo (who single-handedly and tirelessly raised funds to build 11 libraries for the children), Robert, Sahil, Stephanie, Tannaz, and Tony. Our Ambassadors have donated their time and energy to the organization and the children. They have initiated programs, raised funds (as far away as Kuwait and India) and developed programs.

WIJABA Book Supporters:
There are now more than 70 people in The World is Just a Book Away (the book), which has been in development for more than 8 years including: Buzz and Lois Aldrin, Cher, Desmond Tutu, Fess Parker, Jane Fonda, Jane Goodall, Jenny Ming, Muhammad Yunus, Liam Neeson, Miep Gies, Queen Noor of Jordan, Rafael Amargo, Raageshwari, Riz Khan, Shirin Ebadi, Yo-Yo Ma….

(In addition to all of the people in the book, there are those who helped us logistically, including the assistants who work so hard on the process and people who referred us to those in the book.)

WIJABA Partners:
InterContinental Bali Resort, BDO, Give2Asia, Giveology, Happy Cow, Hotel Majapahit, Little Dolphins, Los Angeles Tribal, The Rey Foundation, and Scribble Press.

WIJABA Representatives:
Eric Sullano (Photography), dubroWORKS (Public Relations/Social Media/Blog Editor), and Jeff Bishop (Social Media/Web).

AUSCI Mobile Library opening 2009


WIJABA Friends in Indonesia:
AUSCI (Alumni USC Indonesia) which has partnered with WIJABA in a commitment to launch 50 libraries in 5 years through the Cerdas Bang Program and which has already funded 18 libraries, including 10 AUSCI named libraries scheduled to open in 2011. WIJABA’s largest project to date, the Mobile Library in Sidoarjo, is also named in honor of the work carried out by AUSCI. A glance at the Leadership Team and the Committee Members of AUSCI alone helps to frame just how many people worked to make the WIJABA/AUSCI Indonesia Partnership a success. http://www.ausci.org/committee.

We also have many friends and supporters who have in a variety of ways, helped WIJABA in Indonesia, including Andru, Dewi, Gede, Holip, Martin, Novita, Pak Husodo, Ryan, Yoga, Vanessa, and Rizal.

WIJABA Staff in Indonesia and the US:
Alice, Anngun, Arif, Shannon, Robert, and Tommy.

WIJABA Kuwait:
Abdulaziz, Farah, Omar, Rayah, Salem, and Shabnan (who have, thus far, raised more than $30,000 for WIJABA projects).

WIJABA USC Club Founders:
Alex and Billy, who, with the mentorship of Jonathan, carried out the 1st ever WIJABA 5K in April 2011, organized in 6 weeks and run by 161 people, resulting in funds for the WIJABA 5K Library (2011) opened in Padang in May 2011.

WIJABA: So Many Others To Thank…
To all of our other advisors, volunteers, and friends, including Adrienne, Adlai, Alexander, Ali, Alyssa, Annette, Averil, Ainsley, Betsy, Chip, Chris, Chris, Christine, Chara, Charlotte, Claire, Dale, Elle, Fernandina, Finn, Frank, Gaby, Gillian, Ginger (who, in close collaboration with Michelle, our marketing guru, created our in-depth 5-year marketing plan), Gita, Jeff, Jen, Jenny, Jim, Jim and Julie, Joana, John, Johnson, Karan, Kelly, Kathleen, Ken, Laura, Laura, Lee, Lexi, Lucy, Mark, Martin, Margarita, Mimi, Michael, Mila, Nancy, Patrick, Paul, Ryan, Sandra, Sarah, Sharon, Zoe, students who wrote reports on WIJABA, 20/20 Club Members, everyone at the InterContinental Resort Bali, and donors around the world I also want to say THANK YOU!

As you can see, there are so many people who have worked hard to make WIJABA a resounding success and to serve the children, that it would be impossible to name them all. In fact, many people advise against naming specific people when thanking large groups, and I ask the forgiveness of anyone I haven’t named specifically (I created this blog and the list of names from my “working memory”, so imagine how many people there would be if I actually had time to go through all of my archived emails).

It Takes a State: Yes, indeed, it does take more than a village to launch a non-profit organization as successful as WIJABA, It Takes a State. I hope that the next time someone asks me how I made WIJABA such a success, I can refer them to this blog to give them an idea of the magnitude of support WIJABA has received and the LEGIONS OF PEOPLE who have dedicated their time, energy, creativity and resources to serve the children of the world.

James J. Owens
Founder & CEO
The World is Just a Book Away

This entry was posted in 5K, Board, Books, Child, Indonesia, James J. Owens, Libraries, Padang, Parent, Photo Project, Reading, Sidoarjo, USC, WIJABA. Bookmark the permalink.

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