Tasmanian family hope to donate books to children in the Pacific

A Tasmanian family is hoping to make a difference to the lives of school children across the Pacific by donating books.

After a 12-month voyage around the region on their yacht, the Sutherland family brought home a fresh perspective on life and now aim to collect and distribute books for under-resourced schools.

Braye Sutherland said when he packed up his family and set sail for the South Pacific, he knew their adventure would be life changing.

"I tend to be pretty impatient and rush around a fair bit," he said.

"But if you can, just take some time and sit and watch and actually listen to people, rather than rushing through life.

"It was quite special just having the time to spend with the kids and with the islanders each day and just talk to them and sit and watch."

What Mr Sutherland did not foresee was the difference his family could make to the lives of others, all thanks to a set of Encyclopaedia Britannica books and a six-year-old boy from Fiji who befriended his daughter, Mabel.

"There was a boy on the beach and he was just playing with his ball and then he threw it to me and we started playing catch and then we went swimming," she said.

"Then he waited for me at six o'clock in the morning, just sitting there on the beach."

Mabel's new friend was the son of Naomi Ganilau, a teacher at the local school on Fiji's remote Waya Island.

"It's very remote, whereby those who can go to the mainland, they go very often. If not, the others stay behind," Ms Ganilau said.

"Students don't have access to the internet."

Mabel and her older sister, Isla, were able to experience school life there.

"The school's just walls, a roof and a floor ... they don't have much, they've got blackboards, they sit on single desks, they don't have very good internet," Isla said.

The school had set up a new library but there were so few books in it that Mabel and Isla resolved to donate the encyclopaedias they had been using on board their temporary home school.

"They loved it, they usually get story books but this is different," Ms Ganilau said.

"We're currently doing debate topics and this has helped [students] do their own research, instead of relying on teachers giving them hand-outs.

"They are more independent now and they are able to stand up in assembly to talk about various topics they have researched on."

Emma Mathieson, Mr Sutherland's wife, said the local children she met had an obvious hunger for learning.

"If you visited a family in one of their houses, they might have three basic English picture books which their kids, you can tell, had just turned the pages 100 times," he said.

"You could sense by talking to the kids and their parents that they wanted to practice speaking English and wanted to learn new words."

The family is now determined to replicate their experience and send over more reference books.

"A lot of people think sending computers or sending random aid is a good thing, but one of the really key things these schools and communities need is literature — that is, basic English reading material and encyclopaedias and reference material," Mr Sutherland said.

"There's always resources sitting in Australia that nobody really wants and uses anymore, they have a much higher value in these Pacific islands.

"What I'd like to do every second year is do a run to Vanuatu, in particular, and take about four tonnes of books each time and distribute them."