The holiday season is a season of giving. Check out one of these two literary charity projects if you’re looking to give back this new year!
1. The Inside Books Project
During the holiday season, it’s especially important that we extend our charity and generosity to populations that are typically overlooked and forgotten. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, and Texas has the nation’s largest state prison system—we also have the largest incarcerated population in the entire United States. Due to the overcrowding of our prisons, as well as the cutting of funding towards educational materials and prison library systems, many inmates lack access to educational materials and books. Fortunately, the Inside Books Project, a volunteer-run, non-profit organization situated in Austin, is dedicated to providing books and educational materials to prisoners across Texas. Inside Books receives letters from inmates requesting types of books/specific subjects (e.g. poetry, books about religion, Spanish-to-English dictionaries), and volunteers read the letters, grab a book or two off the shelf, and write letters responding to inmates’ requests. If you’re going out of town for the holidays, don’t worry: the project is year-round, and you can also donate money or books to the project in lieu of volunteering. Having volunteered at the Inside Books Projects a couple of times, I can honestly say that it’s an incredible experience; some letters are inspirational, some are truly heart-breaking. Volunteering for just two hours changed my perceptions of the prison systems and who comprises the incarcerated population, and was great opportunity to give back to an underserved community. The Inside Books Project helps inmates in their rehabilitation and preparation to re-enter society and generates discussion about how we think about prison in our society. Here’s a link to their website for more information about volunteering: http://insidebooksproject.org/
-Luis De La Cruz, Poetry Board
2. Street Lit
Organized from the ground up by a UT student, Street Lit provides homeless individuals in the Austin area with a much-needed opportunity to immerse themselves in literature and creativity. Through books and creative writing workshops held at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH), Street Lit creates an environment of support where homeless individuals may coalesce and restore their spirits with the electric power of words. When it comes to staving off hopelessness and isolation, books are an invaluable, necessary tool. So if you’re feeling generous this holiday season, consider giving this local literary effort a boost! Bring your books to the collection box located in the English office in Calhoun! Monetary donations are accepted too, and they help keep this wonderful community charity afloat. Check out streetlit.org for more information.
~Delia Davis, Fiction Board