Within seconds, Dian Alyan had countless GiveLight supporters asking how they could be a part of this grand plan to get literature to the hundreds of our beloved children around the globe. I am not alone in my admiration of this much needed launch. I had the pleasure to speak with Shirin Shamsi of Darien, Illinois who took this particular initiative to heart.
Shirin, who grew up in England, came to know about GiveLight through a dear friend many years ago and said of Dian, “I’m in awe of what she does.” She added, “GiveLight is my favorite go-to-place to donate.” Shirin finds GiveLight’s cause of supporting children very dear to her, and views GiveLight as a “source of light and hope in the lives of children all of over the world, no matter their religion or ethnicity.” When she discovered Books of Light was a new way to donate, she couldn’t imagine anything more perfect. This initiative encompasses two of her passions: books and writing.
Shirin’s love for writing for and reading to children, made this a perfect match. As an Ambassador of the publishing company Barefoot Books, she is a storyteller and book seller. “It gives me joy to see books in the hands of children. I love seeing the excitement and anticipation of discovery in a child’s face when he or she encounters a book for the first time. Books are the best gift we can give to children. Fundraisers have been my favorite part of being an Ambassador for Barefoot Books, as I am sharing books and supporting causes that are dear to my heart. To bring books to orphans, is absolutely the best opportunity- it is both humbling and gratifying to be involved in this.”
It is that potential love and enthusiasm a child can have upon reading a particular book for the first time, which made Shirin reach out to her family and friends, as well as people on FaceBook, to donate to Books of Light. She said, “When I do ask, I find people are really willing to help.” The response she received made her feel incredibly grateful and now three substantial parcels containing 100 brand new books are on the way to GiveLight home! Ramadan is now upon us, and Shirin reminds us that during this holy month, people give more, which may inspire many others to have book donation drives of their own.
Shirin fondly remembers the conversation she had with Dian about the orphanage in Morocco and recalls reading about her post about having a library there. It is Shirin’s dream to be able to read to those children in Morocco one day. What has made this project so meaningful to Shirin is that she wants to do her part to make the world better for children. “After food and shelter, education is a priority. I think global literacy can solve much of the world’s problems. To bring books to children who are suffering, who have lost their families, I cannot think of a more meaningful gift for them. I hope they treasure these books as friends, and become lifelong learners.” The importance of reading books goes without question. Literacy is a powerful tool, not only in the mastery of language, but to understand the world around us. Shirin said, “ Books help children learn about their world, from a safe distance, from a secure place. Books can give children experiences of the world, enhance their understanding of their world, through empathy. Studies actually show that people who read more, are more empathetic. We need to focus on raising empathetic citizens!”
Shirin feels that she can always give more and do more, and said “I feel it is never enough.” This deep-rooted fervor to help others was instilled in her by her parents. “My parents have been my inspiration. I am grateful to them for many things, especially my faith. May the Almighty reward them. My father always said ‘you must improve the world in some way, even if what you do is as small as a drop in an ocean, it matters and individuals can make a difference.’ Now as I watch my children go out into the world, I am inspired by them also, as they are making a difference and improving the world each in their own way.”
In her own community, Shirin has contributed unwaveringly. To honor her father on what would’ve been his centenarian, she installed a small neighborhood library in her front yard in the shape of a tardis inspired by the television show Doctor Who, which she fondly watched with him. She found so much joy observing children take a book, and place another back in. Such gestures she said, “bring you closer to your neighbors.”
Shirin has lived in the Chicago area for 29 years. “When I moved here from the UK, I had a very active toddler with me and we did not know anyone. Decades later, I remembered that when I saw young mothers. It can be very isolating when you have a baby. I feel it is very important to support young mothers especially. I thought of how I would like to help young mothers have a place where they can gather with their toddlers. With the help of a friend, we began a Mommy and Me group in our local masjid. I feel happy to see young mothers bringing their children to the group, connecting with each other. Most of all, I love to read stories to the children. It is wonderful to have this connection to the community. I may not be around to see these children grow to be adults, but I can make a difference in their lives by inspiring them with a love of stories and respect for books.”
We look forward to reading author Shirin Shamsi’s book due to be published by the end of the year, God Willing.
~ By Mariah Jamal, Feature Writer of GiveLight Foundation