UAE’s Kalimat Foundation, established to advance literacy by upholding children’s rights to access books, particularly the visually impaired and vulnerable, has taken the Month of Reading in the UAE beyond national borders to instill love for the written word among hundreds of marginalized children across several governorates in Egypt.
In collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation (MoFAIC), the UAE Embassy in Cairo, and the Egyptian Board on Books for Young People (EBBY), the Sharjah-based global non-profit organisation has provided 11 libraries, each containing 100 books in Arabic language, to school charities, orphanages, and nonprofit organisations in Egypt through its ‘Pledge a Library’ initiative with an aim to deliver reading material to forcibly-displaced or underprivileged Arab children who have limited access to literature.
In line with the 2013 Marrakesh Treaty, 2,100 books in Braille, large print, and audio formats were donated by Kalimat Foundation to further its ‘ARA’ initiative’s mandate to boost reading accessibility for visually-challenged children.
Marking the occasion of the UAE Reading Month, an annually held celebration of reading in the month of March, Kalimat Foundation curated donations in Egypt to maximize the outreach of its two initiatives – Pledge a Library and ARA – across 14 locations.
Under the Pledge a Library initiative, a 100-book library was donated to Al Tatawue Haya (Volunteering is Life) in El Wadi area of King Mariout, Alexandria governorate. Al Tatawue Haya focuses on developing under-resourced remote areas, while also providing healthcare and social services to needy families.
In the capital city Cairo, compact libraries were gifted to Kheir Wa Baraka Association and the New Woman, a non-profit organisation which works to advance the lives of marginalized groups in Egypt, and Misr Public Library’s El Zawya El Hamra branch, which became the first library to receive ARA’s accessible titles. The Egyptian Association for the Blind and Qasr El Noor for Blind Children were the other two ARA beneficiaries in Cairo.
EBBY board member and mobile storyteller Haytham Shokry was roped in by the Kalimat Foundation to bring joy to the less fortunate children through captivating storytelling sessions. Famous by Coincidence, My Grandfather’s Donkey, and Tastier than Bananas were the choice picks, all stories with value-laden morals messages to build young personalities.
Amna Al Mazmi, Director of Kalimat Foundation, says, “The UAE has been celebrating the Month of Reading since 2017 in line with the vision of our wise leadership to build educated generations capable of advancing social, scientific, and cultural development in the Emirates. Through this visit to Egypt, we are keen to strengthen cooperation with our partners with a common vision of achieving goals of educating and empowering children and youth.”
“The Kalimat Foundation’s efforts and strategies in the Arab region are particularly vital in this direction as we target vulnerable and visually-impaired children who have a right to basic education and literacy, regardless of their place of residence. It is also an established fact that countries will not be able to achieve sustainable prosperity and stability unless they provide a comprehensive educational environment that promotes social integration. We pride ourselves in our Pledge a Library and ARA initiatives that provide a model for successful cultural initiatives in the region and around the world,” adds Al Mazmi.
Dr. Alaa Abdel Halim Abdullah, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Egyptian Association of the Blind and Board Member of Qasr El Noor, a model centre for the care and guidance of the blind, thanked the Kalimat Foundation for the ARA project, saying, “Everything in society starts like a seed, and for this reason the existence of Kalimat Foundation is something that we appreciate and support. Unfortunately, visually impaired children do not receive sufficient attention in the Arab world, although it is an important category that should not be underestimated.”
President of EBBY Dr. Nadia El-Khouly says, “I am happy with the collaboration and visit of the UAE’s Kalimat Foundation that offered children the most precious gift of all: books. This donation will benefit a large number of children and adolescents, making reading a fun part in their daily routine.”
Founder and Chairperson of Kheir Wa Baraka Nevin El-Ibrashi was all praise for the quality and topics of the donated books. “We are pleased with the visit and the library that Kalimat Foundation donated to the association, which is currently training a group of female teachers to read books in an innovative way. These books will be used to educate and entertain the children in the 12 nurseries that they serve.”