S’porean Sells Books From $5, Funds Education Projects In Nepal Since 2018

Singaporean Rehomes Secondhand Books To Fund Quality Education In Nepal

Tucked away amid shuttered workshops, construction sites, and gridlocked units in Toa Payoh Industrial Park was a warehouse sale, where people would come hunting for books sold at 1/5th their usual price.

It was also the place where one had the chance to meet the sale’s organiser Randall Chong, a humble guy with a noble purpose.

Rehoming quality books at an extremely budget-friendly price, he’s helped hundreds of children in Nepal get access to education.

Mr Chong with Nepal students
Image courtesy of Randall Chong

Although the sale has been put on hold now due to Covid-19 restrictions, we managed to have a chat with the 29-year-old.

Here’s what we’ve learnt of his life’s mission.

Sells quality books online from $5

An avid reader himself, Mr Chong is the founder of Books Beyond Borders (BBB), an online catalogue dedicated to rehoming pre-loved books.

Mr Chong cataloguing book stocks
Image courtesy of Randall Chong

Featuring an impressive selection of hundreds of books – from classics to biography, fiction to thrillers – BBB spoils every bookworm with choices.

And the best part is, they only cost between $5 to $10 each—easily a quarter of the books’ original prices.

BBB held monthly warehouse sales before tightened social distancing measures that allowed readers to pick their favourites on-site.

While most book purchases are often transactional, every order at BBB is part of a greater cause—to give children in rural Nepal a new chance at life.

Finds life purpose in Himalayans

As with many millennials who follow the conventional path of seeking a full-time job after completing their education, Mr Chong landed a 9-to-5 job in the tech sector upon graduation and led a financially comfortable life.

But frequent burnouts and “spiritual bankruptcy” made him question if he was leading the life he really wanted.

Feeling at a loss, he packed up and flew to Nepal, hoping the sight of Mount Everest’s Base Camp would provide enlightenment.

And it did, in an unexpected way.

In rural Nepal, he met children who started working or were married off when they were barely 14 years old.

Mr Chong visiting a student’s home with no water or electricity
Image courtesy of Randall Chong

Only when he saw for himself the poverty of resources the local schools had, did he understand why children were dropping out at such young ages.

Then and there, he felt his calling. He decided to help change the status quo.

Children in rural Nepal deserve an education, too

Upon returning to Singapore, the 29-year-old quit his job and started BBB. 3 years on, the social enterprise continues to flourish.

Donating 100% of the revenue from book sales, Mr Chong has funded dozens of education projects in rural Nepal.

Amongst them was the ‘Fill A Backpack’ initiative, where the project provided 700 Nepalese students with much-needed classroom materials for a year.

Image courtesy from Randall Chong

One of the project’s beneficiaries is Teach For Nepal (TFN), which trains teachers to deliver quality education in Nepal’s public schools.

Mr Chong surrounded by children in rural Nepal
Image courtesy of Randall

This is a photo of Mr Chong (leftmost) with Prashuma – a TFN fellow – with her students. She teaches girls to make sanitary pads and empowers them to battle the stigma girls face during their periods.

Image courtesy of Randall Chong

You can read more about the projects BBB’s funded and the stories behind them here.

To do good, a company needs to do well first

When asked what his greatest takeaway from running BBB is, the 29-year-old’s answer was unexpected.

Wholeheartedly committed to his cause, he emphasises the importance of making social enterprise sustainable.

Offering a poignant reflection, Mr Chong says,

With the pandemic, I believe social businesses like us are feeling the urgency to be financially sustainable before thinking about scaling their impact.

True enough, it’s only when they do well as a business can they bring long-lasting positive impacts.

While the warehouse sales are temporarily on hold, you can check out BBB’s site to support the noble cause.

Every order is wrapped pristinely with a hand-written personalised note from Mr Chong.

Changing the world with books & education

Everyone has their own set of goals and aspirations. For Mr Chong, it’s to bring change to the lives of young ones who live over 3,000km away from Singapore.

The road to running a sustainable social business is fraught with challenges, but it is in the face of adversity that the beauty and strength of a human’s soul shine through.

Kudos to Mr Chong who’s striving to change the world, one book at a time.

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Featured image courtesy of Randall Chong.

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