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Borrow human 'books' from the library

SINGAPORE — Want to borrow a human “book” to, well, read?

A "reader's" library card. Photo: Harriet Koh Photography via Human Library Singapore

A "reader's" library card. Photo: Harriet Koh Photography via Human Library Singapore

SINGAPORE — Want to borrow a human “book” to, well, read?

This Sunday (Aug 27), visitors – or “readers” – at the Taman Jurong Community Club will be able to “borrow” books from the Human Library Singapore.

The event, which returns for a third edition, will have six “readers” take turns to listen and pose questions to a participating human book at half-hour intervals.

Among the 42 participating “books” in the Human Library event is Kalai Vanan. The 31-year-old deputy chief executive of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) hopes to educate the readers on “problems and biodiversity that we have in Singapore regarding wildlife”, what measures public can take and some of the stories they encounter on a day-to-day basis.

“As we get more urbanised, people are going to encounter more animals (in Singapore). We want to cultivate a more tolerant and compassionate society where people look at wild animals… For example, snakes are not dangerous, they are shy animals,” said Kalai.

Kalai will also share his experiences as a wildlife rescuer in Singapore. He reckoned he has rescued “thousands” of wildlife species on occasionally “exciting” and “adrenaline pumping” missions, including those native to Singapore. These include sea turtles, slow lorises, pangolins, eagles and even crocodiles.

This year’s selection at the Human Library will also include para-athlete Claire Toh, paralympian Palanisamy Avaday and PsychKick co-founder Shafiqah Nurul Afiqah Ramani.

This will be Shafiqah’s second time participating as a “book”. Once again, she will be sharing her own experience battling mental health issues.

Shafiqah, 24, has had suicidal thoughts since she was nine years old. She had been the only child, but had to contend with feelings of “abandonment and resentment” when the family dynamics changed with the arrival of younger siblings.

When she was 11, she was diagnosed with ameloblastoma, a form of cancer, which compounded her feelings of self-worth as she felt guilty about spending her parents’ hard earned money for her treatment.

After she was found to be self-harming “every few hours” in the toilet, she was diagnosed with depression at 17. Her struggles did not end there.

At 22, she attempted suicide again – a fifth time – and was warded at the National University Hospital for several months. She was then diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

Since then, Shafiqah has been on the road to recovery and returned to school this year. She has also teamed up with other mental health sufferers to create chat-based apps aimed at better facilitating conversations between mental health patients and their psychotherapists.

The upcoming edition of the Human Library will see 11 community partners on board, including Thye Hua Kuan, Trybe, Daughters of Tomorrow, Singapore Association for Mental Health, and Goducate.

The event’s lead organiser Kelly Ann Zainal said 90 per cent of 960 slots for the upcoming session have been filled so far and 200 readers are expected to attend.

Human Library Singapore will take place at Taman Jurong Community Club from 12pm to 6pm on Aug 27. Walk-ins are allowed but interested readers are encouraged to register their interest here:

All “unclaimed” slots are released 10 minutes before each reading session to walk-in visitors.

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