Floating ‘sanctuary’ book spreads knowledge and hope
About 300 people from 60 countries travel the world aboard the largest floating book fair ever to spread the joy of reading and bring hope and help to the needy.
It is the mission of Hope Logosa 132 meter long vessel which was commissioned in February 2009. It entered the port of Valletta in Malta on July 12, where it is moored until the end of the month for bookworms to d ages can enjoy a world of books.
The crew members, from the captains and chefs to the people responsible for stacking the thousands of books on board, are all volunteers.
The offering features over 5,000 book titles, mostly in English, covering a wide range of topics including science, sports, hobbies, cooking, arts, languages and religion. University textbooks in languages, mathematics, geography and history are also available on board.
Although officially registered in Valletta, the ship spends little time there, moving instead from port to port, so the crew can share their knowledge and help local communities, said media relations manager Sebastian Moncayo to the Xinhua News Agency during a tour of the ship.
Having been a Hope Logos Regular since 2019, with a short break to visit family in his home country of Ecuador, Moncayo, 34, enjoys his life on board, meeting people from other countries and cultures.
He told how the boat has spent the last three months in Las Palmas in Spain, where it was first opened to the public and then moved to a dock in another part of Spain for its annual maintenance. Before that, the boat was in West Africa, docking in Sierra Leone, Ghana and Liberia. After Malta, the boat will sail to Albania and Montenegro in the fall, then can continue its tour further afield to Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan in the winter.
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in 2020, crew were not allowed to disembark for 122 days, Moncayo said.
The pandemic has also reduced the boat’s income, mostly from the sale of books they buy for a fraction of the market price from donors. An entrance fee of 1 euro ($1.02) is applicable for visitors aged 13 to 64.
During their stopover, the crew usually disembarks to help local communities through projects with NGOs. “We want to get the message out about how different communities can live together,” Moncayo said.
“It’s the love of books and our fascination with meeting people from different cultures that brings us together. [Our] mission is to spread knowledge and hope, and to help [people]and that is what unites us,” he said.
The vessel is operated under a non-profit organization, GBA Ships, based in Germany.
Passionate reader Christine Ellul, 42, never misses the opportunity to visit the book fair, and has already been there twice.
“I’ve been there twice, once alone [to have] some peace and quiet and another time with my children,” she told Xinhua.
“I read at least one book a week and my kids love to read too.”
“The children enjoyed their time on the boat, talking to the crew and playing with them. We got off the boat with three bags of books,” she added.