Iraq Book Drive: Building a Library Book by Book
So. Iraq. Books. Recently NYPL was contacted by a high school student here in town who had recently met some fellow students in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region. The teens she met there had created a youth leadership group called Vision. Their current projects include everything from translating an English book on education into Kurdish for the resident teachers to working on a newspaper about Kurdish issues and current events for and by young people (which is apparently in circulation already in the city of Sulaymaniyah, not just schools) to creating a library.
The student was inquiring about donations of books for this library that is being built. The teen had already organized a book drive in her school and community but she needed help. So I decided to find out more about this. I got in contact with Ms. Arielle Korman and she gave me some additional information. Here’s what she told me:
“This summer, I attended Legacy International’s “Global Youth Village,” a summer camp focused on peacebuilding. The participants last year came from the U.S., Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. Among the Iraqis were representatives from the country’s major groups- Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds.
GYV had asked that we as participants bring something that represented our culture and/or community. One of the Kurdish boys, Razhan Kawa-Ali, immediately brought out a full color newspaper, for which he is a staff writer. This newspaper, called “Awat,” meaning “hope” in Kurdish, is a student-run all-English newspaper circulating in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq and appearing online. Razhan explained that the newspaper’s goal was to make issues facing Kurdish youth more public (i.e. electricity, the government after the U.S. pulls out, etc). I was blown away by the newspaper, but as he explained to me, it was only made possible by his education.
Razhan and most of the other staff writers on Awat have attended an American school in Kurdistan, run by a group called Servant Group (http://servantgroup.org/contact.html). In any developing nation, education and particularly, knowledge of English are vital if young people wish to make their voices heard. Servant Group is helping Razhan’s organization, “Vision,” to create a library of English books in Sulaimaniya, for the majority of students that have not received Razhan’s education. It will be a safe place dedicated to learning.
Razhan and some friends (many of whom attended GYV with me) started a youth leadership organization called “Vision.” Consisting of teenage participants from multiple cities in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, its projects currently include translating an English book on education into Kurdish, planting gardens and spreading knowledge of environmentalism, building the library, and more. It also wants to start a branch run by friends from camp in Baghdad, which would be a very powerful gesture, considering the historical tension between ethnic groups in Iraq.
Vision has the staff (its members,) and the space, but English books are very hard to come by in Iraq. So, I’m doing my share by collecting books to donate.”
You can see a wish list for the library and the books that they would like here. In the meantime, if you are interested in donating any books to this cause you may email Arielle Korman directly. You can also see the Facebook page she has set up for the drive here.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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