Furthering its dedicated cause to encourage literacy especially among youngsters, Rotary Sunrise Club of Grand Cayman recently commissioned a book aimed at developing children’s character, titled All the Joy in the World.
A couple of years ago while attending a Rotary Conference in Nashville, Tennessee Rotary Sunrise President Michael Levitt came across a children’s book that included Rotary’s Four Way Test in way that young people could start appreciating the values by which Rotarians live.
“I bought a copy, brought it back here and our club agreed that we should provide these to the Cayman Islands primary schools. So during both 2008 and 2009, we gave a copy to every Year 2 and Year 3 student,” he says.
But Michael’s dream always was to have Cayman’s own Caribbean character development book and he spoke to Nasaria Suckoo-Chollette at that time about the idea, which she liked. When he became president, with his board’s support, he took this further with Nasaria and Rotary Sunrise commissioned her to do the book. “Who better to do this project with,” he states? “If the book does as well as we expect, it will ultimately be released worldwide and translated into other languages as well.”
On a personal level, Michael says the book has a very special meaning for him and he says when he received the first draft from Nasaria, he was stunned that it was about a little girl that loses her father at a young age and goes looking for “All the Joy in the Work”
“I lost my father when I was 11. Nasaria was not aware of this – the only brief we gave her was to include the Four Way Test,” he says.
Rotary’s four way test applies the following questions to everything a Rotarian does:
Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Once Michael approached Nasaria to write the book she was excited to begin.
“I started thinking about what I would write,” Nasaria says. “I really wanted the book to appeal to all children, so I decided it would be about kites. Kites are a huge part of Caribbean, Asian, Islamic and African culture, so I knew that it would have mass appeal.”
Although Nasaria says she is not a Rotarian she says she is firmly committed to community work.
“The four way test is something that Rotary asked me to include in the book because it is a part of their mandate to teach children to have integrity when making decisions in their lives. I think it’s a great way to consider the rest of the world when you are making personal decisions. If more adults and world leaders did it we would have a more loving kindness in the world in which we live,” she states.
Nasaria says she is buoyed up with the success of the book, which is not her first foray into writing.
“I certainly intend to write more books,” she ventures. “I have one book already, Storytelling Rundown, a collection of Caymanian stories and poetry. I already have an idea for a third book, much like All the Joy, in that it teaches a life lesson. I wrote the story about seven years ago but had not had time to work on it.”
Nasaria has taken part in many art exhibitions across the Island over the years. Her artistic talents are therefore well known. Taking on the role of illustrator as well as author of the book was something of a challenge, however.
“As for illustrating, that was the most challenging part of the book because of the time it takes. But in the end I was very happy with how it turned out and glad that I allowed myself to work through it. I gained a lot from the experience,” she confirms.
Inspiration, she says, comes from the one who gave me breath and life, “because I can just be trying to write and draw a blank and suddenly the whole idea comes together,” she says. “Inspiration is everywhere we look; it’s in the funny things my niece Asha says; it’s in the millions of chickens running in my yard and keeping me awake; it’s in the mean face of the cashier at the shop. Every experience we have has value; it’s just a matter of how we look at it. I am inspired to find beauty and joy in everything by the words of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie who said, ‘Life is like the theatre – one mustn’t try to understand it all at once and immediately. It is no longer amusing’.”
At the time of writing Michael was launching the book at Rotary’s District Conference in St. Thomas and then again at Rotary’s International Convention in New Orleans this month.