Without Borders will give visitors at the book fair the opportunity to contribute towards the lives of the underprivileged by writing parts of three books, which will be auctioned to raise funds

Storytelling is an art that can make a bigger impact than expected from just a few words. Looking for this art are the hoards of people that visit the Colombo International Book Fair which will be held this year from September 18 to 27 at the BMICH. This year, however, visitors will be given the opportunity to pen a story and through their words, pen a life.

Three books
Without Borders, a youth-led organization, has put together a concept that will give people the opportunity not only to be creative, but also to contribute towards another’s life. At the book fair, Without Borders will have a stall where three books with a story on Tharushi’s life will be displayed. In these are missing sections of the story that visitors can fill.

Without Borders has thought of all ways to make the project inclusive and writing can be done in Sinhala, Tamil or English and a translator will be in the stall at all times.

The idea behind this is that an individual can build a future with just a sentence, Without Borders member Inesh Perera said. Once the stories have been completed at the book fair, the books will be auctioned and the funds collected will be used to make the lives of people like Tharushi better. It is only through the auction that funds will be collected and no donations will be accepted at the stall, in the book fair. It is solely for the writing of a future.

Pen a Life is a project based on crowd-writing and will depend on the people who pen the story. Since a crowd can be expected during the evening, the writing might be more hurried and people can work as group to write Tharushi’s story. However, during the day, attendees will be able to take their time writing Tharushi’s story and can even read what others have written. The stall will have a seating area for visitors.

However, Pen a Life doesn’t stop at the book fair and it isn’t limited to the book fair. People will be encouraged to tweet using a specified hashtag, so they could write Tharushi’s story online. The tweets will be collected and published in a blog and Without Borders encourages anyone who wants to contribute towards the project to tweet their sentences and write Tharushi’s story.

Pen a Life (2)Immense popularity
Without Borders, despite commencing in July 2014, has gained immense popularity for various projects. Kavindya, Sakie and other young people started the organization and it focuses more on empowering people than acts of charity. The reason for this is that Without Borders doesn’t just want its efforts to be limited to a particular project or event, but to continue and impact society long after the project concludes.

Without Borders projects can be categorized as providing learning facilities, for instance, English, social enterprise where women, for instance, are taught business skills, an I-lab where students and job seekers are taught Information Technology and the opportunity bank where grooming skills are offered and job seekers are given the opportunity to meet with employers.

Aiming at community development, Without Borders not only gives the needy money and resources, but also provides training on using the money and resources, so they don’t misuse them. Simply put, Without Borders focuses on sustainability. Giving an example of how they achieve this, Without Borders team members explained that they train those of the community to teach children, so that the project doesn’t depend on the direct involvement of Without Borders.

Without Borders has been recognized for its various projects and services. For its Village to Raise a Child project, Without Borders received the Global Trailblazers Award from the Harvard College Social Innovation Collaboration in November 2014. In July this year, Kavindya Thennakoon was named the winner of the Queen’s Young Leader Award.

Colombo Classroom
For Global Youth Services Day, held in April, Without Borders organized the Colombo Classroom. Held at Crescat Colombo, the setting was a simple classroom with forty desks in the mall. Students from slums and shanties were seated in their ‘classroom’ and shoppers were asked to teach the children something.

Colombo Classroom showed how one does not need to be qualified to teach another and the children were taught various things, including dancing and Chinese.

Thus Without Borders continues to show how not much is required to change a person’s life and at the Colombo International Book Fair, people can change a life and build a future with just a sentence or two.