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Literacy education improves the quality of life for women and their families in some of Afghanistan’s most vulnerable, marginalized female-headed households. For many Afghan women, the loss of a husband or father, which too often happens, exposes them to violence and all forms of discrimination. Being able to read makes all the difference.

At the end of last year we provided 480 Hoopoe books and Teacher Guides to Medica Afghanistan for their 12 Literacy Centers for women and girls in Kabul, Herat and Balkh provinces. This NGO provides literacy classes for women and girls, as well as psychosocial counseling groups.  Women not only learn reading, writing and basic health care, but also their rights under the Afghan constitution, encouraging them to take part in decision-making in a constructive manner. Classes also provide opportunities for women to practice better communication skills and reduce family conflicts.

Afghan classroom

A student retells the story of The Stranger’s Farewell to the class.

Reading The Silly Chicken together

Students share The Silly Chicken, reading the story together.

The 240 students were able to take books home to share with their children and family members, and then exchange them for others, until everyone had read all 12 Hoopoe titles. They all enjoyed the books tremendously and asked if it were possible to receive more.

NUTRITION & EDUCATION INTERNATIONAL HEALTH &NUTRITION DEPARTMENT (NEI)

Afghan girls in the classroom with Hoopoe books
Young Afghan girl with The Clever Boy and the Terrible, Dangerous Animal
Girls holding hot tea and Hoopoe books in Afghanistan

2,235 Hoopoe Books and Teacher Guides were donated to NEI, included in their distribution of soy milk and cookies to schoolchildren in Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad and Badakhshan provinces and to the Afghan Women’s Educational Center Library and the Aschiana Library in Kabul.

The children sent us a lot of beautiful messages, for example:

Thank you from Afghan children
Thank you to Hoopoe Books from Afghan kids
Thank you to Hoopoe Books from Afghan children

Library teachers invited each class to the library where they taught one Hoopoe title every week. They collected feedback from students about the main idea of the story, what they learned from the story and what they thought the positive and negative points of the story were. Teachers were pleased to report an improvement in students reading and writing skills.

“I am happy to share with you that funding for our Seeds of Hope youth clubs was approved so this year we have 2,000 youth in 40 clubs in 10 provinces. We are also continuing the soy snack distribution program for kids. I’m not sure what your capacity is like at this time but we could definitely use over 2,000. Thank you!” —Natasha Kerr Sr. Coordinator of Program Research & Development, Nutrition and Education International (NEI)

We hope to be able to provide the NEI with 6,000 Hoopoe Books, so that each club member has 3 titles to take home and share, then exchange them with another 3, until they have read and shared all 12 Hoopoe Books in Dari-Pashto editions.

In February we received HADIA Foundation/ Moska Mobile Library’s quarterly report from their Executive Director, Mahir Momand. Their progress has been exceptional. Here are key extracts from that report, useful also in the background information it gives on conditions in Afghanistan at this time:

Afghan girls holding up Hoopoe books (The Farmer's Wife)
Boys in an Afghan classroom enthusiastically holding up Hoopoe books
Afghan boys with copies of the book The Silly Chicken
Girls in Afghanistan holding up copies of The Old Woman and the Eagle
Afghan girls holding up copies of The Magic Horse
Boys in Afghanistan holding up copies of the book The Magic Horse
Afghan Girls holding up copies of the book The Old Woman and the Eagle
Boys and girls in Afghanistan holding up copies of The Wisdom of Ahmad Shah

In Nangarhar province, we continue to cover new districts and villages with our paid librarian who distributes books on daily basis. We are also expanding our coverage to schools, the majority of the new schools are those that are in somewhat remote areas with no buildings where children are taught under the open sky and in some cases under the trees etc. On average, the librarian distributes about 200 books per day.

In Kabul, the library is run by 3 volunteers who have their own full time jobs and one of them is a full-time student. The only time they distribute books is during the weekends, which are on Thursdays and Fridays in Kabul. To be honest, there is much more potential to increase the number of volunteers and a result the distribution of books, but we are taking a steady and sustainable approach there. I am very aware that the people helping us in Kabul are volunteers and don’t have a lot of time, apart from their weekends. Plus, the economic situation of all these volunteers does not enable them to take time off from work and distribute books. Its a shame that the economic situation in Afghanistan in general has deteriorated significantly in the past 3 years.

In Herat, since we have dispatched books it has been winter school holidays, which is the same for Kabul but not for Nangarhar (there are different climates in Afghanistan, as you know, and as such different times when schools close for holidays). The distribution of books in Herat has predominately been to orphanages while schools are off. There hasn’t been much distribution in the streets. With the new Afghan year starting in just two weeks time, the schools will also start and the distribution can start there too.

I am most humbled and excited about our expansion to Wardak province where a lot of areas are currently under the Taliban. In coordination with two Wardak based volunteer groups, we have been able to get books to Wardak. As the roads going to districts are also controlled by the Taliban, our volunteers had to practically “smuggle” the books into the province to provide to children who go to “secret” schools. For example, one of the schools is in the house of a tribal elder, where children go (without any school bags on them) to be taught and that’s where the Hoopoe books are kept for them to read. Unfortunately, they can’t take books home because they fear being caught with them. It is very rewarding to know that despite the dire security situation there, we are able to reach out to children and give them access to these beautiful educational books.

As you may be aware, in most areas of Afghanistan once girls reach the age of puberty, they are usually stopped by their families from going to school and are inside their houses all the time. What we have been noticing with Moska Mobile Library in Afghanistan is that such girls are also getting the benefit of our mobile library. They stand at the doorstep of their houses and send their young siblings to the librarian and ask for books. I can imagine, it would be hard for them to have been educated to the extent that they can read and write and then not have access to anything to read. So our books bring them that joy of books. Our librarian in Nangrahar has received letters of thanks from some of such girls, which gives me (at a personal level, a lot of satisfaction) as we are able to operate within the norms of Afghanistan traditions and yet reach out to young girls and ladies with our books. At times, I feel we need books that can cater to this particular groups as I imagine some of them would be finding our books too basic. Please let us know if you can help with that. Knowing that Moska Mobile Library is reaching out and provide books to young girls, who are not allowed by their families due to traditional reasons, to venture outside their houses as they have reached the age of puberty is very satisfying to me and my colleagues.

Saber Hosseini of the Children’s Book Foundation continues to ride his bicycle all over Bamyan Province, distributing books to boys and girls. In February this year we donated an additional 250 copies of each of 12 Hoopoe titles to help him expand this valuable program. Here’s his moving story of reaching children in the remote village of Ghalaye Miana:

Saber Hosseini distributing books to kids in Afghanistan
Saber Hosseini and children with Hoopoe books in Afghanistan
Men passing out Hoopoe books to children in Afghanistan
2 Afghan boys with the book Fatima the Spinner and the Tent
Saber Hosseini with Hoopoe books

The people from Ghalaye Miana village had asked me many times to start my work over there. I had promised them to make a plan to start my activities there.

Two days ago an old man came to me with his grandson. I took them to my house. The old man insisted that the kids in his village desperately need books. He said my work and activities can be very beneficial for them. I promised him to bring them books as soon as I can. He was happy. I gave a book to his grandson to borrow and they were happy when they left. I watched him for a while at my front door slowly walk away from me with his walking stick in his hand and his grandson by his side. I came back inside and still could hear his voice in my head over and over. “Our children need books… They will be motivated to study if you come…

I went to their village today. First I found his house. He was so happy to see me. After a short rest, I left to start giving away the books. The old man’s grandkids let the other kids in the village know. After a few seconds kids came from every where and they were in a hurry to get the books. When I was lifting a book to give it away many hands were trying to reach it first. When every kid got their books we sat for a while and started reading the books. First I read then they repeated one by one.

It was getting dark. The village’s narrow and unpaved road was dangerous in the dark. I asked the kids to please read the books many times. I told them to go home and read it for younger ones and the ones who cannot read, then I said goodbye. I left the village and am so happy. I imagine the kids tonight reading books for the others. Maybe right now the old man’s grandchildren read a storybook one by one for their grandfather loudly…

So far this year Matiullah Wesa’s mobile team distributed Hoopoe Books to hundreds of children in several provinces:

Kids in Afghanistan with copies of The Magic Horse

Spin Boldak – Kandahar Province

Afghan girls in a classroom with the book The Stranger's Farewell

Central Baghlan Province

Kids in a circle with the book The Wisdom of Ahmad Shah

Farah Province

Distributing Hoopoe books in Baharak District Afghanistan

Baharak District – Takhar Province

Boys in Keshem District Afghanistan with copies of the book The Lion Who Saw Himself in the Water

Keshem District – Badakhshan Province

Afghan girls in a classroom with the book The Farmer's Wife

Girishk District Helmand Province

passing out copies of The Silly Chicken to Afghan kids in the classroom

Wardak Province

Thanks to our donors, in April we were able to give the team 1,000 more copies of each of our 12 titles in Dari-Pashto editions to help them reach even more children.

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