Julia and Emma Mogus, Founders of Books with no Bounds.
They call themselves "Teens on a Mission". Their mission to bring books to their fellow brothers and sisters in the North in hopes of improving literacy skills among First Nations youth.
In 2011, teen sisters Emma and Julia Mogus of Oakville stumble on a 20-year study from the University of Nevada that showed having books in the home increased the level of education in children, regardless of where you lived or whether you were rich or poor.
The report identified that having as few as 20 books in the home had a huge impact on propelling a child to a higher level of education. The more books you had, the greater the benefit.
Julia and Emma have always had a passion for reading and it has opened the doors to many incredible opportunities for them. They first began by buying books with their own money at local second-hand and discount stores in hopes of donating these books to remote communities in northern Ontario in the future.
Emma had the opportunity to work as an Ontario legislative page at Queen's Park in 2012. It was there she became familiar with the literacy initiatives of former and first Aboriginal lieutenant-governor, the Honourable James Bartleman.
He said 'education was my ticket out of a life of poverty"and that the quality of education to Native children on reserves wasn't the same as non-Native children living off reserves. It saddened the sisters to learn children and teens in these remote communities were, on average, four to five years behind in reading and literacy skills.
Emma and Julia believe every child deserves access to "an enormous supply of reading material and it should not just the privilege of some."
In the months to follow, the sisters contacted the office of current lieutenant governor of Ontario, the Honourable David C. Onley, whom Emma had the privilege of meeting during her term as legislative page. They were dismayed to learn the lieutenant-governor's Aboriginal Summer Reading Book Drive had been cancelled for two years and there were no plans for it to resume. Shortly after, the sisters embarked on their mission and founded the organization Books With No Bounds.
Emma and Julia submitted a letter to the National Post, asking the newspaper to feature a story that would raise awareness of the need for books in First Nation communtiies. Along with the letters, they attached a photo of all the books they had orginally bought with their own money and signs reading "Nishnawbe Aski Nation or BUST." By this point they had worked hard to accumulate hundreds of books to give to children and teens of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation
communities in northern Ontario and they wanted to show the nation. The National Post published an article about their valiant efforts to help their peers to the north.
During this same time, their local town councillor, Pam Damoff, helped in setting up a meeting for the sisters with Stan Beardy, then grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation and now Ontario regional chief. The sisters were honoured and delighted to have this opportunity.
At their meeting with Beardy adn Damoff in Toronto, the sisters listened intently and learned more about the hardships and inequalities faced by children and teens in northern communities. They walked away more determined than ever to continue their efforts to collect more books.
Coun. Damoff also helped secure a drop-off location for children's books at Hopedale Mall in Oakville, which kindly donated a retail storefront where the books were collected, sorted and recorded. Julia and Emma began their summer vacation spending eight to 10 hours a day sorting, recording, and packaging all the books. They continued to do so for the entire summer.
Panago Pizza in Oakville joined their efforts, helping collect books at their store locations throughout Oakville and Burlington. All of a sudden, Emma and Julia no longer had hundreds of books collected - they had had thousands!
As the summer drew to a close the sisters knew they needed to find a way to get the books into the hands of First Nation youth in remote communities, so their next goal was to raise funds for shipping. They began by selling candy kabobs and freezies at various events.
Coun. Damoff, meanwhile had worked tirelessly to secure a generous donation of $600.00 from the Laborers Internatinoal Union of North America (LIUNA) - Ontario Provincial District Council to also help cover shipping costs. In addition, LIUNA Local 607 offered to transport all 55 boxes of books to Wasaya Airways LP in Thunder Bay.
From there the 55 boxes were flown to the schools of 24 fly-in communities with the help of Wasaya Airways LP. Offering a tremendous discount and support, the airline was able to fly 6,000 books to the children and teens of NAN communities. Julia and Emma were incredibly grateful for the compassion and generosity of Wasaya.
To date, Emma and Julia have organized and overseen the shipment of over 62,500 books to Aboriginal communities throughout Canada and to children around the world. And as if collecting and sending that many books wasn't enough, the girls also sent warm winter clothing, craft supplies, tablets, computers, e-readers, toys, crafts and school supplies.
In collaboration with numerous school boards and organizations, the sisters continue to raise awareness and organize future book drives and fundraising initiatives within the communities. Julia and Emma believe this will be an incredible opportunity for students to enhance educational experience for Aboriginal and cultural awareness. Books With No Bounds continues to open a postiive channel of communtication between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth. The girls have spoken to students, non-charitable groups and at organized events. They are currently preparing to embark on their 'No Bounds Tour' in Thunder Bay and into the 'fly-in' communities of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, through the generosity of Wasaya Airways LP and Porter Airlines. Julia and Emma know anything is possible because Books With No Bounds was their dream and that dream became a reality.