As of July 2011, the Philippines is home to 101,833,938 people and about 34.6 percent of those people are children ages 1-14. Education is vital for the future of third world countries and senior computer science major Tam-Sanh Nguyen saw the importance of improving the education in the Philippines after seeing first hand some of the poor and dire circumstances.
Many of the books and supplies that Nguyen saw were outdated. He described how some textbooks still refer to Russia as the Soviet Union and those are the latest editions. The lack of current books along with a limited and slow Internet connection ultimately has had a huge impact on the quality of education that many Filipinos are receiving.
Nguyen started a non-profit organization called Balik Bayan Books that is dedicated to furthering education in the Philippines. The non-profit sends books and supplies to schools over to the Philippines.
“‘Balik Bayan is a term in Filipino that means, ‘Return to the Homeland,’” Nguyen said. “It’s the name of the trip that Filipinos, like myself, take when we return home.”
Throughout high school, Nguyen remained actively involved in various non-profits. During the summer of 2009 he visited the Philippines and saw for himself the conditions of the country. At the beginning of fall 2009, Nguyen was part of a living-learning program, Global Communities. When he was unable to fit the course in his schedule, the director at the time Kevin McClure allowed him to work on Balik Bayan Books as an alternative.
Balik Bayan Books collects used books, textbooks, novels, and more from donators who no longer need the supplies. The supplies are then sent to schools and institutions that the non-profit is partnered with such as Bukidnon State University and an orphanage called Sisters of Cittadini.
“Students in the Philippines, most of which barely have enough to pay two cents to make a photocopy, can almost never afford that $200 textbook,” Nguyen said.
With the help of family, friends and acquaintances, Nguyen has made Balik Bayan Books a successful non-profit organization.
“There is no way this organization would run without the help of all those people that contribute their time, effort and books,” Nguyen said.
Although Nguyen is currently receiving his own education, he explained that he has high hopes for the non-profit organization. Nguyen is currently working on a new model that is meant to help improve the efficiency of the non-profit in order to reduce costs and improve the use of resources.
It is not easy being a full time college student and running a non-profit organization, but Nguyen does it. Along with running a non-profit organization, Nguyen is president of the Buddhism Club and is a part of the Japanese American Student Association.
“The way I see it, having that balance between the academic and extra-curricular is what makes a person truly unique in today’s world,” Nguyen said.
If you would like to learn more information about how to donate or get involved in Balik Bayan Books contact Nguyen at https://www.facebook.com/bbbooks.org.