Denise Chávez, owner of Casa Camino Real Book Store & Art Gallery in Las Cruces, New Mexico, curated the book wish lists and is coordinating the distribution to the intended recipients.
A group of concerned citizens in Minnesota is launching a charitable book drive to benefit refugee children more than 1,000 miles away at the Mexican border. The two-month new book drive is called Books for Border Kids; it kicked off on September 1 and will end on October 31.
According to Betty Ray, a spokesperson for BBK, the group of Twin Cities residents who are friends—none of whom are book publishing professionals, and who do not wish to be identified by name—wanted to express in a productive way their concern over the plight of the refugees to the United States who are being detained at the Mexican border.
“As devoted readers, parents, and grandparents, we knew of many stories of children being sustained by books and the power of books to ignite the imagination and inspire a life,” Ray explained to Publisher’s Weekly about the group’s motivations. “We decided to try to find a way to get books in the hands of refugee children at the border.” The group, she said, wanted to alleviate refugee children’s “sense of helplessness and despair about their safety and comfort” by providing “opportunities to learn and to develop a sense of home and place and a feeling of hope itself.”
Denise Chávez, owner of Casa Camino Real Book Store & Art Gallery in Las Cruces, New Mexico, curated the book wish lists and is coordinating the distribution to the intended recipients. Chávez has been organizing book drops to refugee families from Mexico and Central America for about a year; Casa Camino Real, in collaboration with the American Booksellers Association (ABA) and the Border Servant Corps (BSC), began distributing books to refugee families in 2018 through its joint program, Libros Para El Viaje/Books for the Journey.
According to Chávez, she and her colleagues currently are distributing books at refugee service organization sites, as well at the border “hospitality centers,” and are driving to Juárez, where many refugees wait, hoping to enter the United States. She said the one place she hasn’t been able to distribute is inside ICE detention centers. Chávez and about ten other volunteers have delivered approximately twenty thousand books so far, according to the Southwest Journal.
Casa Camino Real has just launched its own fundraising drive to purchase a “libromobile” to facilitate these book distributions; to date, $1,000 has been raised of the $15,000 needed to buy and renovate the bookmobile Chávez has in mind.
Ray told PW that the BBK organizers hope that other groups of people will come together to “create their own initiative in whatever way works for them” to provide refugee families with books.
“Already, people in other communities who are interested in creating their own similar initiatives are contacting us,” Ray said. “We’re sharing our process, learning, and contacts. Denise Chávez has been a huge help to us and will offer guidance and support to others. Our initiative ends on October 31, but we will do our best to extend our support to others with similar missions beyond that date.”
Casa Camino Real is a bookstore, art gallery and community resource center that celebrates literature and the arts in the borderland region of New Mexico, Texas and Northern México. We are located in Las Cruces, New Mexico, 42 miles from the U.S./México border on the Camino Real and on the original Las Cruces townsite. We believe books are for everyone. When you enter our historic adobe, our motto is "This is the temple where books are sacred."