by JENNIFER FRAKES | photos by Soul of Photography

Love of Reading

student_gowda1As a student who loves reading and is dedicated to helping others, Rancho Santa Fe’s Bela Gowda makes a difference in the lives of children across the world with her local book drives for the African Library Project. “I love to read, and I want other kids to be able to experience the same thing as me,” Bela said. “When I collected all of my books for my first drive, my whole family helped sort them and put them into boxes to ship. I am so grateful that family was there to help me,” she revealed. In fact, it was her family who inspired her love of reading. “I always read a book before I went to sleep with my parents when I was little,” Bela smiled.

The African Library Project is an organization that starts libraries in rural African communities. Volunteers in the United States collect, sort, and pack gently used children’s books to ship to specific African communities. Book drives are organized in local schools and neighborhoods and funds are raised to ship the books to the project’s partners in Africa.

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Name: Bela Ulambra Gowda (13)
School: The Bishop’s School
Grade: 8 in the fall
Parents: Shilpi Gowda and Anand Gowda
Sibling: Mira Gowda (15)
Hobbies & Interests: Dance, reading, tennis, volleyball, piano, and spending time with my friends, family, and dog
Favorite Local Spots: The beach, San Dieguito County Park, home, UTC mall, One Paseo mall, Local Greens, Thyme on the Ranch, and Morgan Run


student_gowda3Bela collected 1,001 books and approximately $650 during her first book drive. After these books were shipped off, she was thrilled to find another box of about 200 books. These books will go toward her next drive. “I am about a third of the way towards completing my next book drive! Anyone who is interested in donating can send children’s books or checks to P.O. Box 1804, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067. Checks should be made out to The African Library Project,” said Bela.

In addition to her volunteer work for the African Library Project, Bela volunteers at Bannister House, Feeding America, the Ronald McDonald House, and Father Joe’s Villages. When she is not volunteering, she can be found dancing, reading, or playing tennis, volleyball, and the piano. “I love spending time with my friends, family, and my dog,” shared Bela. She is also involved in the service club at school and is performing in the production of the play Our Town.

At The Bishop’s School, Bela especially enjoys her science class. “I really like my teacher and enjoy doing labs and experiments,” stated Bela, who hopes to one day take her interest in engineering and inventing and become a scientist.