Event Apart from selling books,volunteers of the world's largest floating book store Logos Hope believe in building bridges across communities

O ne thing that connects the 400 crew members of M.V. Logos Hope, who come from over 45 different nations, is their passion to serve mankind. Though they speak different languages and come from varied backgrounds, their camaraderie and will to do something for others is exemplary.

Logos Hope is the world's largest floating library and book store, and right now it is berthed at Visakhapatnam at the Visakha Container Terminal. Logos Hope is owned and operated by GBA Ships, an international charitable organisation registered in Germany, and has been in service for the last 40 years. The ship carries fiction, biographies, bestsellers, and books on science, sports, spiritual subjects, hobbies and cookery.

Victor, a young robotic engineer from southern Brazil, joined the ship to satisfy his urge to do some kind of social work. “Immediately after graduating from my university, I wanted to join an NGO to give something back to society, and a friend of mine informed me about this floating library. I applied and joined as a crew member. I did all sorts of work, including working in the galley, and now I am the official videographer of the ship,” he says.

Netty Visser from the Netherlands appreciates the multi-cultural environment on board. “It is a challenge to live with people from different countries. But if we can live in a ship in harmony, we can as well coexist in harmony in the world.” Being one of the oldest crew members on board, Netty, who worked as a CEO of a health company in the Netherlands, now serves as chaplain on the ship and the young crew members look to her during difficult times.

“I always liked to meet and interact with different people,” she says, “and probably that coupled with the idea of doing something for society impelled me to take up this assignment. The average age of the crew members is 23 years and this young crowd needs an experienced shoulder to rely on and share their feelings at times, and that's my role. This apart, meeting people from different cultures at every port of visit is an experience of a lifetime,” she says.

Netty finds that each time the group visit a country, their preconceptions about the people and culture are turned around.

Victor has found his time on the ship offers a two-way exchange of knowledge. He says, “The mission of this ship is to share knowledge through books, but in turn we learn a lot by interacting with different people on board and as well as with the people we meet on visit to different countries. We cannot probably change the world in our lifetime, but at least we can contribute to that change in a small way in our lifetime.”

The 400-odd crew members including the Master and the technical staff all serve on voluntary terms for a period ranging from three months to four years. Media Relations Officer Jessie Laplue explains how they sign on. “The interested persons apply and if selected are trained in methods of communication, conflict resolution, cross-cultural perspectives, ethics and life skills, before being put on board. Specific qualification is not needed, but if qualified and trained then they are assigned works related to their field. And apart from providing high-quality literature we do a lot of social service such as organise health camps and build homes for the poor in the countries that we visit,” she says.

Jessie herself is a graduate in communications from Tennessee, United States, and she joined the ship because she wanted to help build bridges among cultures. “Though we hail from different cultures and backgrounds, somewhere we strike a common chord. I have realised that money is important but not everything in life. A little bit of sacrifice for a fellow human being gives immense satisfaction. We have visited countries where there are no book stores at all. Giving books to the young minds and seeing them smile made me feel on top of the world,” says Jessie. Logos Hope has been in operation since February 2009 and has docked at a number of countries since then. It is estimated that about 1.4 billion people have visited the ship at different ports.

SUMIT BHATTACHARJEE

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