Books Sail into Needy Hands
Ann-Wallis White floods the Caribbean with children’s books
The biggest catamaran at the U.S. Sail Boat Show is so highfalutin that only VIPs can board. Orion is reserved for the invited guests of Cruising World Magazine.
You and seven friends could charter the 90-foot Catana — with amenities including four cabins, indoor and outdoor dining salons, Jacuzzi and crew of four — for a week in the Caribbean.
It would be “time out of time, a magical experience,” says charter broker Ann-Wallis White of Eastport, that would cost you only $39,000 — off season.
Yet for Orion’s post-boat show voyage from Annapolis to Tortuga, White has arranged free passage for a stowaway cargo of second-hand books.
In the Caribbean, citizens “live in sub-Saharan poverty,” White says.
A school may have no paper, and a school library only three-dozen books.
White has made it her mission to flood the Caribbean with books for children to read.
Thousands of used children’s books and the occasional set of encyclopedias — over which White rejoices — have sailed on luxury boats like the Orion to arrive, circuitously, in the hands of children who likely have never owned a book.
“I’m like a spider with a fly,” she explains. “I find victims in boats coming through town. I work out passage with the captain or ship’s agent. Sometimes the owner doesn’t even know the books are aboard.”
Lately, White has branched out to motor yachts, which have more room. Last month, the 63-foot motor yacht Victorian Rose, a refurbished 1963 Burger, carried 14 bins of books to an island White will not name. The books are, strictly speaking, smuggled.
Continuing her mission means, White says, “My car is always full of Rubbermaid bins. Boats don’t like cardboard, which has roach eggs.”
Her van, home, porch and shed overflow with books she is given or collects from the Rotary Club of Parole’s Books for International Goodwill Project (drop box for all donations open 24 hours behind The Capital-Gazette newspaper building in Annapolis).
Books are donated by Key School students who wrap their books for Christmas in hand-printed paper. Isabel Littmann, whose family owns the hardware store that supplies book bins, contributed books she collected as gifts from guests at her sixth birthday party.
“Nearby libraries contribute, often out the back door,” says White, who appreciates a conspiracy. “Sometimes I find boxes of books left on my porch.”
White loves the collecting and finagling, but even better are the results of her manipulations.
“We live in a country where little efforts are probably not enough to make a difference. But in the Caribbean, you’re dealing with some islands whose whole population is in the thousands. So if you give 500 books, the odds of it making a difference in someone’s life are pretty high.”
White can count the difference her books have made.
“One bin of books we sent more than doubled what a school in Anegada, in the British Virgin Islands, had in its library,” White says.
“One book at a time, books have changed the world in these islands,” White says. “If you want the books your children have outgrown to go someplace important, give them to me.”
Contact White at email@example.com.
True Value Hardware at 912 Forest Drive, Annapolis, has set up a bin to collect books for island children through October 17.