Read. Re-use. Repeat: Bailey’s Changemaker Journey
This story was written by Kylie Trask and edited for length and clarity.
Having grown up as an avid reader, Bailey took joy in reading the myriad of books on her shelves. She appreciated the stories that played an influential role in shaping her childhood in Hong Kong.
Although she had outgrown her children’s books over the years, she was reluctant to toss them aside in the designated bin at her apartment where unrecyclable materials were placed. Bailey says her family “hesitated to toss these books there, and I recall having a strong desire to pass on our cherished books to other young readers who would enjoy them as much as we did.”
Bailey investigated further. She went out of her way to search for a local thrift store where she could donate her beloved books. However, she was both surprised and disheartened to see the small and disorganized section for the second-hand books in the back corner of the store.
She realized that like her, other book lovers who wanted to donate their books to new homes either had few sustainable or convenient options for recycling books or didn't know how or where to donate. Likewise, there is also a lack of outlets for people in Hong Kong to purchase second-hand children’s books. Instead, these books are oftentimes very costly as many are imported from overseas.
While reflecting on her unique experience, Bailey saw an opportunity to serve her community and create a sustainable solution. She thought to herself, “what can I realistically do? I’m a full-time student, 14 years old, and [I don’t] have any prior experience in leading a big project.”
Despite Hong Kong being one of the most highly developed countries in the world, “waste is a common problem,” Bailey says. “The recycling infrastructure in Hong Kong is not yet developed, and throw-away consumer culture has fueled our overflowing landfills.” The reuse of books, however, would help reduce the demand for paper production, the carbon footprint of books, and the amount of waste heading to landfills.
Bailey aspired to find a middle ground between her personal skills, interests, and the needs of her community. So, she decided to create a platform that promotes the reuse of children’s books by providing “a free and convenient service to collect books directly from donors, and ... an online shop to make it easy and cost-effective for others to access and buy second-hand children’s books.” Fulfilling her goal of extending the shelf life of books and making them more accessible, she started an e-commerce website for her new social venture, reBooked: “a non-profit social enterprise to promote a circular economy for books and encourages sustainability in literacy.”
While initially developing reBooked, she received overwhelming support from her family and friends. Three of her peers joined her immediately, eager to reimage book access in Hong Kong. She also reached out to other individuals in the industry through networking. Just like her family’s support, their responses were positive and full of encouragement.
Through social media, Bailey widened her community engagement and promoted her idea. Once reBooked captured the attention of prospective donors wanting to contribute their books to the cause, she began personally collecting books from families nearby. To increase her reach, Bailey entered reBooked in a community outreach competition and partnered with a chain of local bookstores in Hong Kong to set up book donation drop-boxes at several shops.
Next, she formed a team comprised of three other ambitious young people. reBooked embraces community engagement and is accompanied by “a growing community of almost 2,000 families who have joined [their] cause to promote the reuse of children’s books.”
Feedback from customers and beneficiaries helps fuel motivation for her and her team. The support enables them to continue expanding their efforts towards creating sustainable and convenient outlets for book lovers to purchase and donate books in Hong Kong. Additionally, reBooked is proud to be addressing three of the United Nations' goals through their initiatives: quality education, sustainable cities and communities, and responsible consumption and production.
The real value of a book is the story that unfolds inside of the book, rather than the condition of its cover.
Bailey attended a program hosted by Kids4Kids, a Hong Kong-based organization inspiring the next generation of young people to be changemakers. “I attended their program called ‘Powered by Youth’ in September 2019 and thereafter in October, joined their community outreach competition called ‘Action for a Cause’ where reBooked was one of the winners.”
It was through these programs where Bailey met Michele Lai, Founder and previous Executive Director of Kids4Kids, a passionate social entrepreneur imagining a world where all young people have the skills to create positive change. She also met Mabel Sieh, the current Executive Director who shares Michele’s vision for the future. Together, these women, Bailey shares, “are like mentors to me. They have been a huge source of support and encouragement. In addition, they have connected me to several like-minded organizations.”
Despite her successes and positive influences, like many other changemakers, Bailey has faced challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic. Although she has been unable to collect book donations and deliveries, she perseveres with innovative solutions. Baliey redesigned her initiative by finding an alternative means of transportation to help with book collection and distribution, which resulted in a more time-saving and cost-effective solution for her work moving forward.
Valuing community engagement, reBooked promotes sustainability, literacy, and a circular economy while enabling young people to be a new generation of changemakers. Through a summer internship program, reBooked offers students ages 8 to 16 a first-hand experience in social entrepreneurship. The program provides insights on how to start and manage an enterprise such as reBooked, enabling participants to learn about marketing and peer collaboration.
In the process of creating reBooked, Bailey has changed the cultural paradigm of buying second-hand items and promoting the idea of a zero-waste lifestyle in Hong Kong. “The real value of the book is the story that unfolds inside of the book, rather than the condition of its cover,” says Bailey. Although consumers in Hong Kong are not socially accustomed to using second-hand items yet, she “envisions a more general acceptance of recycling and reusing products.”
Although the world is facing a global climate crisis that demands sustainable solutions and innovations, Bailey finds hope in other youth changemakers like her. Understanding the importance of her generation’s involvement in today’s social challenges, Bailey inspires others with her passion and community involvement. While raising awareness about the harmfulness of waste, Bailey and her team are contributing to a culture of sustainable and zero-waste lifestyles in Hong Kong.
Bailey is a young changemaker from Hong Kong who is reimagining book sharing and recycling in her community. She participated in a youth leadership program hosted by Kids4Kids where she met Michele Lai, a social entrepreneur and Ashoka Fellow (elected in 2019). Michele founded Kids4Kids to bring young people together to develop their changemakers skills and to create their own social initiatives for helping other young people. Michele found her changemaking power when she was 14 and has been supporting young people like Bailey and Sakshi to find their unique power ever since. Read more about Michele here.