I first met Alice Pung in 2009 at Perth Writers Festival. I was struck by her intelligence and humour. In festival panels she is straight-faced and uproariously funny. She is the editor of Growing Up Asian in Australia and the author of Unpolished Gem and the upcoming Laurinda. Here she shares the personal story that led her to become a Room to Read writer-ambassador.
1. Out of all the charities in all the world, why did you decide to become a writer-ambassador for Room to Read?
Room to Read focuses on literacy, especially the literacy of young girls and women. I grew up with a mother who was not literate in English, and barely literate in her first language. They closed down all the Chinese schools in Cambodia when she was in Grade 2. I can personally see the effects of literacy through a lifetime. Literacy changed my life. I became a lawyer and a writer, while my mother worked as an outworker and then a (very successful!) salesperson at Betta Electrical, where she continues to work. There is also a huge difference between my illiterate relatives in Cambodia and the literate ones.
|Image courtesy of Room to Read.|
2. What do you most love about Room to Read’s work and approach to what they do?
They involve teachers, students and writers – all groups that understand the importance of literacy. Also, the writer-ambassadors’ enthusiasm is infectious.
3. What makes you care about education and literacy for children in other parts of the world?
Because if fate had not intervened, I would be that child on the other side of the world, looking after siblings or languishing in a refugee camp. Not a day goes by when I don’t realise how lucky I am!
4. You are a literacy hero. What kinds of things have you done to show your support for Room to Read?
I have spoken to schools, local and international, made donations, and right now Rebecca Thorpe and I (Room to Read in Melbourne) are planning a very exciting half-year ahead with an art exhibition and book launch!
5. What actions can schools and students perform to show their support?
They can support through Students Helping Students, and the World Change Challenge.
The 2014 Room to Read World Change Challenge is an attempt to raise $20,000 to buy 20,000 books for children in the world’s poorest countries by the end of October. I would love you to help us here: https://www.tristanbancks.com/2014/03/room-to-read-world-change-challenge-2014.html