An oasis of life-long learning

By Michael Lashley

The Nubian Book Club is a perfect example of “the village”, the ideal community which raises a mentally alert, self-confident, motivated and socially well-adjusted child. It is also an oasis of life-long learning with members ranging in age from four to eighty-four.

The ambience of enthusiasm and social belonging that reigns during its summer sessions reminds me of David Rudder’s definition of calypso music: “It is a living vibration/Rooted deep within my Caribbean belly.”

Donna Cardoza
Donna Cardoza

The brainchild of Teaching Assistant Donna Cardoza, the club has a definite Caribbean flavor. I hear a range of accents typical of the English-speaking Caribbean diaspora, blending easily with those of a few French-speaking Caribbean voices and the occasional lilt of continental Africans.

Donna’s backyard in Markham serves as the welcoming venue for a gathering of primary school children, young adults attending secondary school and university, educators, parents, grandparents, retirees, community activists and others who share a love of reading.

Miguel San Vicente, who with his wife the multi-talented Itah Sadu owns the bookstore A Different Booklist, once told me that people who love books are special people. Every single member of the Nubian Club feels comfortable in his or her skin and knows that the other members accept him or her as a special person. Mutual respect flows with the harmony described by Rudder in his famous musical rendition in which the Ganges meets and merges mellifluously with the Nile.

I am therefore not surprised at the immense success of this model of Community Development and Youth Development, of ‘’education” in its truly natural and holistic form. The social conscience that motivates Donna and her team of volunteers has resulted in two prestigious awards: the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship and the Markham Peace Medallion.

In accepting those awards, Donna made it a point to stress the same principles that are evident to me every year when I take my children to the Nubian. She cited the joys of giving back to the community; the co-operation of her colleagues, friends, family members and supporters in all levels of academia; the exercise in collective empowerment; the lived lessons in co-operative management experienced by both the youth and the adults in planning, preparing and executing each session.

It is not by chance that I have personalized this commentary. Readers can go to the Nubian Book Club’s website and click on “Markham Peace Medallion Ceremony” to learn more about the ways in which the club is totally different from other book clubs.

I want to demonstrate from my own experience that we do not need to depend on any level of government to turn our dreams and aspirations into realities. The Nubian Book Club is funded solely by its members and individual supporters; there is neither corporate nor government sponsorship.

Its donation of thousands of books to school libraries in South Africa is made possible by the financial contributions and the labor of love of inspired persons who exercise what Nelson Mandela calls their “power of choice”.