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21 July 2010

Book lovers were treated to a “book-elicious” spread as an estimated 6,000 books were displayed for sale at Bookfest @ Bishan on 12 June 2010 at the Bishan Community Centre. Bookfest has been put together by volunteers from both the Salvation Army Library Enterprise (SALE) and the Bishan North Youth Executive Committee (Bishan Youth CC Youth Club). Working together for the first time, the volunteers worked alongside each other to plan the project, garner the community’s support and run this meaningful event, in a bid to promote reading within the community and at the same time, raise funds for The Salvation Army’s work with its various beneficiaries.
The books were donated by the public to The Salvation Army through its donation bins island wide. These are in turn received by the Red Shield Industries’ collection team and processed by the SALE team; a group of dedicated volunteers who have been helping behind the scenes for more than five years now. Week after week, they come together to process, sort, price and organize the books to raise needed funds for the Army’s social services and programmes, which serves more than 2000 beneficiaries.
To encourage the sale of the books, the team also works to organize the sale of thousands of second-hand books each year. Though an arduous task, avid volunteer Hwee Hian, who pioneered SALE with two other volunteers, takes it all in her stride for a larger cause.
Despite the hard work it entails, she explains that SALE is also focused on reaching out to the community and encouraging service learning in youth. The larger cause is ultimately aimed at improving the lives of low-income families, achieved through the sale of second-hand books. In the end, Bookfest managed to raise more than $2200 in a single day.
SALE’s core volunteer group consists of approximately 15 people who help out on a regular basis, aided by ad-hoc volunteers, mostly students.
Hwee Hian believes that SALE provides a serving opportunity for youth volunteers who find it difficult to lend effort on a regular basis due to various other commitments. “Not many volunteer projects allow students to volunteer without a minimum commitment for a short period of time. But because SALE encourages service learning, we let students volunteer whenever they can… Some of them are quite introverted. By volunteering, they can also build up their social skills,” Hwee Hian says.
Currently, the team helps out at Upper Serangoon and had recently started another team at Upper Bukit Timah six months ago. Several youth volunteers, aged 13 to 17 years, help out at both branches.
It is no surprise that SALE’s annual book sales draw large crowds. The books, some as good as new, retail at a fraction of the price of their unused counterparts. There are books for children, teenagers and adults, with the most expensive being a mere $5. Other than books, soft toys were also on sale to raise funds.
Besides volunteers from SALE and Bishan North Youth Executive Committee, volunteers from Anderson Junior College and an international student were also enlisted and worked alongside each other to help out at the book fair.
Volunteer Tan Jing Hwee, 31, feels that her experiences at SALE have been very enjoyable and fulfilling. A school teacher, she joined SALE in 2008, and has been helping out at weekends since.
Like many other SALE volunteers, she has a passion for reading. “Volunteering at SALE is particularly rewarding, as it enables me to find books that are generally difficult to source in ordinary bookstores,” she says.
In fact, their mutual passion for reading is what gels SALE volunteers together in a close-knit community. In doing what they love, they are also helping to make a big difference in the community.