Buk bilong Pikinini (books for children) is an independent not-for-profit organisation based in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, which aims to establish children's libraries and foster a love of reading and learning. In PNG there are few functioning libraries outside the school system and most children do not have access to books at all. Only half of school-age children go to school and the literacy rate in PNG is well under the 50% officially claimed - in some areas as low as 5%.
The organisation aims to bring the books to the children via the creation of small Buk bilong Pikinini libraries in community-based localities such as near settlements, clinics and market places. They were established in 2007 and have so far set up seventeen children's libraries across PNG, with the latest being on Manus Island.
I was lucky enough to be invited to stay over that night at the Residence (luxurious Italian marble bathroom, I felt very spoilt! Though I forgot that the “C” on the bathroom tap might stand for “caldo” rather than cold and nearly burnt myself) and spent the following morning playing Wii with the adorable young daughter of the Italian Ambassador, with whom I kept falling into a giggling-spiral over breakfast. She laughed as she asked me why I laughed so much (which made me laugh more), but neither my Italian nor her English were yet good enough to easily explain “default setting in the delightful but awkward situation of being in a stranger’s house for breakfast”. Fortunately the universal language of dancing to cheesy pop music in front of the telly said everything needed, and my biggest win of the weekend was that she wanted me to come back and babysit. Naw!