Thursday, February 6, 2014

Global MLK Day of Service Launches in Paris

On January 29, the Union of Overseas Voters (UOV) held the first Martin Luther King, Jr. Global Day of Service event at the Fondation des Etats-Unis (United States Foundation) of the Cité International Universitaire in Paris' 14th arrondissement.

Tony Frank Clouin-Paschall, founding chair of the organization, says the following about this day:

The Union of Overseas Voters has launched Global MLK Day to promote the celebration of Dr. King's birthday with a day of humanitarian service everywhere around the world in his memory. We believe, like Dr. King, that "Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve" regardless of nationality, national origin, or country of residence. We believe U.S. citizens overseas can, and should, lead this global effort to commemorate Dr. King's legacy by building bridges in our international communities, alongside our foreign neighbors, hand in hand with them, across the globe. But ultimately, Dr. King's day belongs to the world and to people of all nations, because we all belong to Dr. King's "beloved community."

Tony Frank Clouin-Paschall
Founding chair, Union of Overseas Voters
© Discover Paris!

He opened the evening with an introduction of UOV (a nonpartisan, non-profit association), spoke about the purpose of the MLK Global Day of Service, and presented the speakers for the event.

First, Debra Russo-Haley read a message from Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist monk who was exiled in the U.S. for 40 years and nominated by Dr. King for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. Hanh wrote of how he and Dr. King talked about the importance of community service.

Debra Russo-Haley
Treasurer, Union of Overseas Voters
© Discover Paris!

Then, Pam Pappas Stanoch spoke about the service project that UOV has adopted for the MLK Global Day of Service - collecting books for the non-profit organization Books for Africa.

Pam Pappas Stanoch
Member, Board of Directors, Books for Africa
© Discover Paris!

The mission of Books for Africa is to end the book famine in Africa. Books are donated by publishers, schools, libraries, individuals, and organizations; sorted and packed by volunteers who carefully choose books that are age and subject appropriate; and sent to children in rural schools who have never before held a book. Most of the books sent are in English, but French-language books are collected and sent to Francophone countries as well.

Screenshots from video "Shadows of the African Book Walk"
Books for Africa

Stanoch spoke passionately about the organization. Though she lives in the U.S., she comes to France frequently to help coordinate efforts around the country in support of the collection of French-language books. She fielded many questions about Books for Africa after her presentation, during which time Clouin-Paschall announced UOV has collected over 2000 books for the cause to date and is now in search of a larger space to store them.

To close the event, Clouin-Paschall invited everyone to pick an activity through which to serve his or her community. No matter how big or small, these actions will honor the spirit of the MLK Global Day of Service throughout the year.

The Union of Overseas Voters has established a website - - designed to help U.S. citizens overseas, and non-Americans alike, publish details about their MLK Day activities around the world each year. The site will not only allow them  to reach potential volunteers but will also help the Union consolidate information about the shared commitment to Martin Luther King's legacy and give greater weight to the campaign to expand the recognition of this global day of community service.

Dr. King was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. MLK Day is celebrated in the United States on the third Monday of January. In 1994, at Coretta Scott King's urging, the holiday was transformed into a national day of humanitarian service.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
1964 Library of Congress
New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection

For more information on Books for Africa, click on the image below.


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