Over 4.5 Million Books Donated to Children in Afghanistan since Our Program Started in 2007!
New Afghan Minority Language Program
The Nuristani translation team will distribute a first printing of 5,000 of each title to schools. With this first printing an estimated 12,000 children in the villages of Bargi Matal District and Kamdesh District of Nuristan Province will read the books in class and be able to take them home so that their siblings, parents, grandparents, and other relatives can use them as well.
Afghanistan is a multilingual country with one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. Only about 31% of the adult population (over 15 years of age) can read, and female literacy levels are on average only 17%. Studies show that we all learn to read more easily if we begin to do so in our mother tongue, but storybooks for children in these languages are rare if non-existent. These new Hoopoe editions will enable hundreds of thousands of Afghan children to learn to read their own traditional stories in the language they speak at home; then transfer those skills, using the same story, to their national language — Dari or Pashto — that they will need in order to continue their education.
The benefits that these books bring to children are many: not only are they learning to read and think for themselves, they remember these wonderful stories and refer to them as examples for their actions and behavior; they share them with family and friends, teach their friends and families to read them; and, most importantly, the stories give them a positive internal narrative, replacing one of struggle, war, guns and fighting.
At the end of 2016 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.
Snapshots from Book Deliveries in Late 2017
Nutrition & Education International Health & Nutrition Department (Nei)
The children sent us a lot of beautiful messages, for example:
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 of 2017 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:
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 for 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. It’s 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 these 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.
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…
Matiullah Wesa’s mobile team distributed Hoopoe books to hundreds of children in several provinces: