A middle school project to deliver books to a library halfway around the world is almost complete, thanks to some good timing and an alert travel advisor. Students from Odyssey Middle School in Bainbridge, Washington, brought over 400 books to Holland America Line’s ship Westerdam on Sunday for delivery to a new literacy library in Papua New Guinea.
Students at the school undertook the project in 2019 after learning about the nation north of Australia in which over one third of residents are illiterate. But getting the books there remained a big challenge. Heather Visser, who works for Cruise Specialists and whose children attend the school, discovered a Holland America Line itinerary that made it possible. Westerdam was set to sail a 36-day voyage from Seattle to Sydney, with port visits to Papua New Guinea.
“This has been an amazing opportunity for us, and also for Holland America to partner with us,” said Dr. Mere Sovick, Executive Director of Melanesian Women Today, a nonprofit that champions education in the region. “We didn’t know how to get (the books) there… so this has saved us so much money but wow, at the same time the kids can come and experience this in a way that is tangible for them.”
Nine students joined Westerdam’s captain and crew Sunday to drop off the books, to talk about their mission, to learn about the ship and to hear more about how their donation will ultimately arrive in about a month.
Westerdam just completed a season cruising roundtrip from Seattle to Alaska and is making its South Pacific Crossing to Sydney where it will offer a season of Australia and New Zealand itineraries. In early 2023, Westerdam cruises to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, China and the Philippines before returning back to Seattle for another Alaska season in in May.
More information on the literacy project can be found at the Melanesia Women Today website.