SINGAPORE – “Do something that scares you next year.” A book with this quote scribbled on it sent Mr. Randall Chong on a trip to Nepal, and it was also through books that he found a way to give back to the community there.
Mr. Chong received the book in 2016 as a Christmas present from a friend. The following December, he kept his resolve by marching to the Mount Everest base camp in the Himalayas.
At that time, he had been working in various start-ups for five years and wanted to “get away from it all” for a while. Having long nurtured a passion for entrepreneurship, he also hoped to find his purpose in life.
In Nepal, he was struck by how children as young as 16 had to work, while those in school faced empty walls and untrained teachers.
The 29-year-old said: “I realized I could go back to Singapore, call friends, raise money and come back to paint walls. Or I could spend a year raising money for schools there. -low. I chose the second route, and it’s been three years. “
Mr. Chong then founded the social enterprise Books Beyond Borders SG, which sells used books donated in Singapore to raise funds for the education of Nepalese children.
To date, Books Beyond Borders has raised $ 30,000. This amount was given to his partner company Teach for Nepal, which trains educators before deploying them in rural areas.
Books Beyond Borders also gives one-time grants to teachers who hope to start new initiatives in their schools, such as setting up a science lab in a school that does not have one. The social enterprise decides how many such projects it can fund every six months based on its bottom line.
During the pandemic, he funded a Teach for Nepal project to print out lesson plans and record lessons into audio clips that could be broadcast on the radio for students. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, schools in Nepal were closed for an entire year and in rural areas, students lacked technological support.
Books Beyond Borders also funded the reconstruction of a school that was partially destroyed in a flood in July this year.
“School is not just a place to learn and study. For many students, it is a place where they feel safe. It is a place where they feel they belong somewhere.” , did he declare.
Prior to Books Beyond Borders, Mr. Chong had tried other fundraising methods such as selling cookies, which contributed to a portion of the total social enterprise funds raised today. But when the pandemic hit, he decided to stick with collecting and selling used books.
He said he’s always been a fan of recirculating used books which is better for the environment. He started by putting the books away in his grandfather’s bedroom, then moved them to his aunt’s warehouse, where she runs her own business, for about eight months. In a short time, space is also scarce.
“My aunt kind of hinted that I had to find my own space because the books were just piling up,” he said with a laugh.
In July of this year, Mr. Chong installed The Book Barracks in the Kong Beng Industrial Building in Jalan Pemimpin. The 450 m² space is home to nearly 5,000 donated books and is open to the public for book purchase from Friday to Sunday.
“People who donate to our cause, whether it’s cash or donating books, all have a passion for literacy,” he says.
For more details on Books Beyond Borders SG or to book a tour of its space, visit the Books Beyond Borders website.