Buk bilong pikinini: an unexpected haven for kids’ books

Buk Bilong Pikinini is a charity founded in 2007.

One of the great things about being your own boss is you can follow your own interests. Outside of Wilkins Farago, I travel to Papua New Guinea each year for completely unrelated work.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is Australia’s nearest neighbour and a former colony (it gained independence in 1975). Its six million plus inhabitants make it the most populous country in the Pacific, while its healthy reserves of gold, silver, copper and natural gas are making it a popular destination for the world’s miners and drillers.

While the country’s GDP is rising quickly, the vast majority of Papua New Guineans are still very poor. The first time I visited there, I made the mistake of asking what the unemployment rate was. I was laughed at. PNG has an employment rate of around 15%. The remaining 85% of the population lives mostly in non-urban areas and survives through subsistence farming.

Needless to say, there’s not much of a book culture in PNG. Outside of a handful of stationers and university/college shops, there are no book retailers as such and few libraries. School fees for primary school remain a major expense for ordinary Papua New Guineans, who often go into debt to pay them.

On my last trip to PNG, I drove past a brightly painted shipping container in the suburb of Six Mile in PNG’s capital Port Moresby. On the outside were the words Buk Bilong Pikinini Library—PNG pidgin for ‘Children’s Book Library’. This year I dropped by and donated a few Wilkins Farago books, which were gratefully received. I hope we’ll donate more.

There are now seven Buk Bilong Pikinini libraries in PNG, including one at Port Moresby’s General Hospital. You can read more about this admirable and relatively new initiative, including how to make donations, here.