First delivery of Dubai-donated books leaves for library in Pakistan

Kitaabie, an initiative set up by three Pakistani expatriates in Dubai, plans to set up libraries for children across Pakistan.

From right, student Ivanna Menezes, actor and director Asad Malik, Kitaabie founder Maha Khan and actor Zarrar Bin Saleem sort through and pack books at American College of Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National
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DUBAI // The first batch of more than 1,000 books was sent to Pakistan on Saturday – World Book Day – as part of the Kitaabie initiative to build libraries there.

Kitaabie, which means “my book” in Arabic, was set up by a group of Pakistanis in Dubai, motivated by the UAE naming 2016 as the Year of Reading.

The books were sent to Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, and to library premises donated by a former Dubai resident of 20 years, Ali Raza Jafry, 72, who now runs a welfare trust.

“These donated books are academic and non-academic, donated by family, friends and students at American College of Dubai,” said Maha Khan, an English teacher at the British Council who is behind the initiative.

“Once these books reach Pakistan, they will be set up in the library.

“We will then start reaching out to the children in underprivileged areas and start reading and writing workshops.”

She said UAE residents were welcome to donate their books to help children in Pakistan.

“It is one of those countries where buying a book is still a luxury,” she said. “Here in Dubai, most of the used books are in great shape. It will be a great gift.”

Courier TCS Express Worldwide is supporting Kitaabie by delivering the books.

“World Book Day is a perfect opportunity to remember that, in many parts of the world, children have little or no access to books and can’t develop their reading skills or derive pleasure from reading in the same way that we do,” said TCS Middle East director, Shariq Mahmood.

American College of Dubai (ACD), in Garhoud, used its hall for the collection of books.

“ACD has always been a pioneer in community service,” said Shankari Sharma, its dean of student services.

“Since we are an educational institution, what better way to support education than to support the drive to build a library for the underprivileged students of Pakistan.”

Student Ivana Menezes, 18, was one of the volunteers yesterday and was proud to be part of the book drive, donating 30 books.

“I am sharing my knowledge with them and this gives you a great feeling,” she said.

Asad Malik, a Pakistani actor who was at the event to collect and pack books, was overwhelmed to see the enthusiasm people had for Kitaabie.

“I am so happy to be here and felt so good to see so many people in Dubai have come forward to donate books for children in Pakistan,” said the 40-year-old.

“There are millions of children [in Pakistan] who cannot even think of having such glossy books in their hands.

“I am sure these beautiful books would attract them more towards education.

“Illiteracy is a major challenge in Pakistan and an initiative like Kitaabie will make a great difference.”

Kitaabie is a non-profit project started by three Pakistani expatriates, including Ms Khan.

It aims to establish a library every 100 kilometres in Pakistan but is reliant on people donating space, books, furniture and everything else needed.

This year’s World Book Day coincided with the 400th anniversary of the death of English playwright William Shakespeare.