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Local children’s book drive offer Papua New Guinea village plenty of love

By Meg Saultry

Many of us still remember our favourite childhood story books and a new initiative will have many less fortunate children receive the same thrill of a tale well told.

Benalla community members are being encouraged to donate pre-loved children's books to be gifted to village schools in Papua New Guinea.

The idea came about through local resident Brian Vial, who has dedicated a large portion of his retirement to helping children in Papua New Guinea through education, after four family members served in the Pacific War.

It was with the knowledge and gratitude he felt towards his family and the country that  Vial’s first endeavour, the Leigh G. Vial Memorial scholarship program was born. The program has for six years helped 19 girls and 14 boys from the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea achieve Year 12 status, with most going on to tertiary education.

But after two of its scholarship recipients, Gita and Vivian visited Benalla last year, the newest initiative was born.

“They were talking to our friends and said it was a pity the village schools were poor for books and supplies," Mr Vial said.

“So, we sent a small box of books to Papua New Guinea."

Mr Vial was later invited to Gita's family village to see first-hand the impact the books had made on the school-aged children.

“We know from that one small box, they are very well received," Mr Vial said.

Local member Steph Ryan encouraged everyone in the community to get behind the initiative.

“What Brian has done is just incredible, and I think it deserves the acknowledgement of the wider community,” Ms Ryan said.

“Many of us tend to have books lying around the house that are loved, or kids have grown out of and can be put to a great purpose for kids who don’t have any books.”

*If members of the community would like to donate their pre-loved books, there are drop off boxes at U3A, the Benalla Library and Steph Ryan’s office.