Books save lives. Let this woman show you how


Growing up, Gadija Sydow Noordien discovered a new world each time she opened a book. She travelled with characters as they embarked upon fantastical adventures, escaping into the excitement of stories. The daughter of a cleaner, Noordien was exposed to books through her mother’s work at Westridge Public Library, and left school after completing Grade 10. Noordien then became a shelf-packer at Westridge, a constant source of comfort. She knew she had more to offer, but never expected to have a library of her own. Today she does just that, sharing the magic of words with over 700 children.

Four years after leaving school, Noordien completed matric, and later attained a Bachelor’s in Information Science. While studying towards her degree, she started a family. By then, Noordien had left the library, but when her children began their schooling, her path back to books was set. As a member of the school’s governing body, Noordien was approached by the principal to help the children improve their reading abilities. So she started a reading group, hosting it out of a disused storage room with only 32 books.

Noordien’s initiative has since grown into a fully-fledged library, filled to the ceilings with 4 000 books for the hundreds of kids who use it. Most of the books have been donated by organisations like Nal’ibali, giving children the opportunity to be exposed to the stories Noordien loved as a young girl, and improve their literacy skills. “I hope every child that passes through these walls experiences the same magic I did when I was a child,” Noordien says. “I feel it is of utmost importance that there should be a school library at every school. Let’s use this not just to change a life, but to save a life.”