By Lianna Pisani
From Jan. 18 until Jan. 25, LU students Nathan Knott, Mark Mancini, and Chloë Mirfield camped out in a tent outside the main doors to the J.N. Desmarais library, taking part in Live-In for Literacy. In total, the students and the Laurentian community raised $5,812 for the cause, exceeding their $5,000 goal.
“It’s an interesting experience living in the library… not one that many people get to do,” says Mancini. “You don’t have the amenities of home. You don’t have ready-access to the basic necessities of life.”
Despite that, though, Mancini says his experience was a positive one: “It’s a cause that I really believe in, and I know it’s a cause that Nathan and Chloë really believe deeply in as well, and so it’s been a really positive experience because of that. We’ve been able to accomplish so much in just a week. It’s really nspiring.”
Mirfield, along with Knott and Mancini, feels very strongly about the cause, and promoting literacy as an equalizer among people, which is one of the reasons she decided to participate in the livein event.
“I think literacy is very important. It’s a great equalizer among people,” Mirfield says. “It’s one thing to be able to have opportunities, but if you can’t even access the most basic of opportunities, because of being illiterate, or having literacy difficulties, it really holds you back in life. Literacy is not just a third-world issue; it’s an issue in Canada.”
Knott and Mancini have very similar views regarding the important of literacy skills around the globe. Mancini says, “I’m very passionate about promoting democracy worldwide, and ensuring that the conditions for democracy to flourish worldwide are there. I think having a literate population is the key to that. This is why I felt really passionate about this issue, and was really happy to participate along with Nathan and Chloë.”
Knott agrees that he has also had a positive experience, and was happy to participate, but also notes that the three had to overcome some obstacles along the way. The LU community helped make those obstacles easier to bear.
“We get a lot of donations for food, for example, but we don’t control what we get. We have to find a way to take showers. To live in the library is tough, but in the end it’s very rewarding because of all the support we’ve been getting from the Laurentian community,” says Knott. Mirfield also mentions that becoming roommates in a tent does require some time to get used to one another’s living habits.
“The first couple of days were really for us to get used to living with one another. We have very different living styles, and sleeping patterns– Nathan likes to go to bed early, but Mark and I can stay up until three in the morning. We had to get used to eating together, planning our days together. We had to coordinate everything,” she says of the tenting living experience. Knott and Mancini say that
they often get asked if they feel like prisoners in the library, and students have asked if they are allowed to leave, or to go to class.
“It’s almost like people think we are trapped in the library. We live in the library in the sense as we would live at home; we’re allowed to leave our house for various reasons,” Knott explains.Camping out on the LU campus has some perks, aside from the contribution to Live-in for Literacy. For instance, there is always internet access available, and the library specifically sees a lot of student traffic.
“To be honest, I haven’t gotten bored at all,” says Mancini. “Being here, there’s been a lot to do. We played board games one night. It was Nathan’s birthday this week, so we had dinner for that. Besides that, it’s a great opportunity to get a lot of homework done.”
For Mirfield, the Live-in for Literacy project becomes very personal, as she has seen someone close to her overcome illiteracy.
“My father grew up in foster care. He was actually kicked out of his foster home at 16 because he was dyslexic… He didn’t know how to read going into his first job,” Mirfield says. She adds that her father’s first job was at a printing press, where he worked with no education for about 6 years. His tasks included taking pages off of the press and placing them into piles. At the time, the press was printing university textbooks. Mirfield explains, “Someone slowly taught him, had patience with him, and taught him how to read while he was working. He’s a reading nut now,” Mirfield says. “He’ll go through textbooks, my essays; he’ll go through novels… everything.”
Knott, Mancini, and Mirfield will help others across the globe have the opportunity to overcome illiteracy as well, through their successes during Live-in for Literacy.