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UAE: Meet the volunteers of world’s largest floating book fair; set to arrive in Dubai on

At the heart of MV Logos Hope are its diverse crew of volunteers, from around 65 different countries, who devote one or more years of their lives to serving on board

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Published: Fri 14 Apr 2023, 6:00 AM

After nearly a decade, the world’s largest floating book fair is back in the UAE – bringing with it not only thousands of books in Arabic and English, but also hundreds of volunteers onboard “to promote literacy, cross-cultural cooperation and social awareness.”

MV Logos Hope is currently docked at Ras Al Khaimah Port (berth 8) until April 16. It will sail to Dubai next week and open its gangways to the public from April 18 to 23, before docking in Abu Dhabi on May 17, to stay in the Capital until June 4.

Logos Hope – which is operated by GBA (Good Books for All), a non-profit organisation based in Germany, continues the legacy of its sister ships Logos, Doulos and Logos II. These ships have collectively welcomed around 50 million people on board since 1970 in over 150 countries and territories.

Logos means ‘word’ in Greek, and the ship is regarded as a “genuine expression of international goodwill and understanding”. At the heart of it are the diverse crew and staff of volunteers from around 65 different countries who devote one or more years of their lives to serving on board.

Knowledge, help and hope

One of the current 300 volunteer-crew is 28-year old Nidhin Sebastian. Originally from Kerala in India, Sebastian used to work as a safety officer at IndiGo airlines before he came aboard as volunteer in November 2021. He is currently the ship’s ports engagement director.

He told Khaleej Times their goal is not only to offer books at low prices, but also “to share knowledge, help and hope” in every port they visit. This means the ship’s crew do not only run a bookfair, sort books, replenish the shelves or give tours of the ship; they also engage in “cultural exchanges, community work, and creating bridges among people from across the world.”

Their voyage is also about sharing the beauty of literature and making it accessible to everyone.

That is what Sebastian experienced when Logos Hope visited, in the past two years, the ports of Sierra Leone, Ghana, Liberia, West Africa, Canary Islands, Spain, Malta, Albania, Montenegro, Cyprus, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Djibouti and Iraq. Before coming to the UAE, the ship made a successful first-ever visit to Basra, where it spread knowledge and cheer to over 90,000 book lovers.

“Every country we visit is special,” noted Sebastian, adding: “Logos Hope has always been about forming connections and understanding diverse cultures. And we could have not done this without the support of like-minded partner organisations, institutions and government departments.”

Volunteers visit hospitals, schools, orphanages and provide community care. Logos Hope crew did community outreach programmes following Hurricane Dorian’s devastating effect on the Bahamas back in 2020, noted Sebastian.

Learning from each other

“What is more unique about Logos Hope is the crew itself,” noted media relations officer Saunval Pateliya, 22. He said the most important thing he learned since serving as a ship volunteer in September last year, was expanding his cultural understanding.

The crew and staff are all volunteers, including many serving in their professional capacity such as seafarers, engineers, electricians, nurses, teachers and cooks. Even the ship’s captain is a volunteer, who does not receive any salary.

Pateliya, who is originally from Gujarat and a fresh university graduate, said they all came from different cultural backgrounds.

“We learn from each other. Our diversity has been very rewarding in “pursuing life above and beyond our individual comfort zones,” he noted, adding: “Volunteers benefit from a structured training programme, where they combine work with cross-cultural encounters.”

What to expect aboard Logos Hope

Book lovers in Ras Al Khaimah have been trawling through the shelves and piles of books aboard the ship since April 11. The fair will be running in the emirate until April 16 before heading to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Seven-year old Prisha was brought by her parents Dhananjay and Kruti on Tuesday. She picked several story books and her parents said they were affordable. Other visitors also pointed out the price point and purchase of good quality literature.

Logos Hope houses books spanning arts, sciences, short stories, children’s books, cookery, medicine, languages, academic texts, atlases, dictionaries, and more. It not only promises a massive haul of titles but also a host of cultural performances and activities aboard the ship.

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