Providing a reading culture community in Brunei, Bruneians: Read (B: Read) with the aim to gather book lovers promoting reading and the wonders of reading to others.
B:Read was started in 2008 by five founding members before it was passed on to SallyHani Hazman in 2016 where she was appointed as the chairperson today.
The non-profit organisation was created to instill the love of reading in people in Brunei, especially the youths.
In its bid to encourage a reading culture, they have created projects and activities on a voluntary basis so that anyone who has an interest in reading can join in anytime they want.
With B:Read, there is a community made for bookworms to interact and engage with each other over literacy-related activities.
In an interview with The Bruneian, Sallyhani and some other volunteers shared that one of the recent activities that the community has done so far before the pandemic was a reading programme with Pusat Bahagia, a learning centre for differently abled individuals.
“At that time, we were celebrating down syndrome day with children who were diagnosed with the condition. We gathered everyone and had the theatre community group called Malay House to host an interactive programme with the children,” said Sallyhani.
Theatre is also a part of literacy where they engaged with the children and came up with a script for some activities together.
This year B:Read featured the story of a Bruneian folktale “Awang Semaun”, where the community always tries to highlight Brunei and its folktales, especially for events with children.
For them, local folktale bears the richness of culture and history for such content allows people to remember and reminisce the history of Brunei.
Moreover, the organisation also organised activities with other local communities such as the residents of Kampung Bolkiah in Kampong Ayer with a local NGO Big BWN Project where they did reading and interactive storytelling programmes with children around the area.
“We also did multiple book drives over the years, the book donation, book adoption activities where we placed wooden crates at different cafes. So, when people come into the eateries, they can pick up a book adopt or swap with their own books or donate,” said the Chairperson.
All of the books are free of charge and it is also a way for B: Read to promote reading to the people in the cafes, instead of being on their phones while having their coffees.
With the B: Read community, the chairman hoped that with the activities that they have done, more people especially youths would take the time and volunteer with them.
Sallyhani also shared that she grew up in an environment where her parents taught her to love reading. She would visit the library on the weekends and appreciate the books that Brunei is blessed with.
This has led to her wanting the same for the Bruneian community; to appreciate the books around them and to have a passion for reading.
B: Read has done many activities where they hope to inspire people and be influenced to do the same as what they are doing or even be a member of the NGO.
When reading is someone’s passion, it can help the mind to expand. For Sallyhani, when she picks up a book, it feels like she is in a different realm and her imagination can be creative, creating a beautiful journey of words.
“Even having interactive activities with the children, especially with the reading programmes, is truly something fulfilling for me because not only am I bringing myself into this beautiful imaginative world, but I’m also bringing my audience, people who will join me for my adventures,” said the bookworm.
Since her chairmanship, Sallyhani noted that the organisation has gained over 50 volunteers, with some new and familiar faces coming back to join.
Volunteers Alya, Najla and Ziqah Omar shared that B:Read is always keen to have more volunteers as with more helping hands, they can do so much more to help the reading community grow.
The NGO finds it a challenge to have more helping hands as they do not have fixed manpower, especially during events and activities.
Some people have a different mindset toward volunteering and are not committed to their task at hand so they just leave whenever they want prior to completing their responsibility.
They need volunteers who are sincere in helping them to promote reading culture to the younger generation.
Communities like this can also be an inspiration or the start of other awareness organisations while at the same time encouraging other youth-led activities.
Just like Sallyhani who joined B: Read as a participant and her passion for reading and activities led to her becoming the person she is today.
In the long run, B: Read hopes to host more literacy events and gain support from both the public and public sectors in terms of manpower and organising reading-based programmes.
“If you enjoy reading just like us, or if you are keen to learn more and dive into these beautiful pages of books, then you are welcomed to be a part of our community and that is what B: Read is,” said Sallyhani.
This article was first published on 16 July 2022 in our Weekly Epaper issue 202 | More stories here
THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN