Tuesday, September 21, 2004

A Book in Every Port

For most of us, cruise ships conjure up thoughts of endless cocktails, non-stop food, music, entertainment and lazy days soaking up the sun. Two cruise ships have turned this image on its ear by combining fun with good works.
For the past 30 years the M.V. DOULOS and its sister ship the LOGOS II have sold approximately 26 million books in 1,195 ports of call as part of Good Books for All (Gute Bücher für alle .V.), a private, non-profit, charitable organization in Germany.
The ships sail to countries where books are scarce or prohibitively expensive. Visiting such far-flung ports as Malta, Croatia, Vanuato, India and Malaysia, the ships can carry up to half a million books in their holds. "Our ships carry approximately 4,000 titles in a wide range of categories, such as education, counselling, cooking, religion, culture, science, technology and fiction," said Karen Langley, a journalist/press officer for OM Ships, which partners with GBA. Once in port the the crew invites the public on board for tours, parties and a book fair in which discounted childrens and adult titles are sold. The fee covers shipping costs. Publishers donate educational titles but the ships purchase literature in the local language to sell as well.
A sampling of titles available on DOULOS:
Introduction to Criminal Justice
The Ultimate Cat Book
The Wind in the Willows
Thai Cooking
Books are not the only thing these ships carry. The crew of each ship is committed to public service and everyone on board, from cook to Captain, is an unpaid volunteer who also performs community service at each port. This includes "visits to hospitals, schools, prisons, orphanages and nursing homes, building projects, relief work, and occasionally medical aid," Langley said. "We also host programs for the public on a variety of topics, such as: faith, marriage, community development and AIDS awareness."

Volunteers can serve from two weeks to two years on board and hail from all over the world. An average of 40 countries are represented on each ship. "Serving on board is a unique way to learn about and experience other cultures," said Ken Miller, an OM spokesman who served on the DOULOS. "First, there is the privilege and challenge of living in a multi-national community. As DOULOS travels from country to country, there are opportunities not just to see cities and places and peoples, but to interact with people--often being invited to eat in their homes-and find out about their lives-their struggles and their hopes."
The ships travel year-round and are staffed with teachers and doctors, as some volunteers have their families with them. The ship raises money from donations and by selling souvenirs on board.

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