Camel Libraries with Alif Laila Book Bus Society
We are thrilled to continue our collaboration with Alif Laila Book Bus Society (which serves as the International Board on Books for Young People Pakistan chapter) in support of their camel libraries, and in their continuing mission to bring education, books, and libraries to Pakistani children, especially to girls and those hard to reach rural and mountainous areas. Our partnership with ALBBS first began with their successful Libraries in a Box project that saw 680 box libraries with 100 books per box sent to rural libraries and schools in Pakistan. Over 119,000 children continue to benefit from the Library in a Box program.
Now, the camel libraries in Pakistan are a wonderful addition to the other mobile library projects WaterBridge Outreach have supported in India and the Philippines!
Inspired by her friend Margriet Ruur's book My Librarian is a Camel which tells the story of Dashdondog Jamba and the mobile library he launched in Mongolia, and a Pakistani friend who started camel libraries in Ethiopia, Basarat Kazim, President of ALBBS was determined to bring mobile libraries to the children in Pakistan too. Working with Zubaida Jalal, whose sister runs the Female Education Trust in Mand, Pakistan’s first camel library became operational in October 2020. At the moment, five camel libraries are up with Umeed (Hope), the sixth camel library, sponsored by WaterBridge Outreach set to commence the rounds in Kohlu, Balochistan in July 2021.
With an estimated 22.8 million children out-of-school, Pakistan has the world's second highest number of out-of-school-children (OOSC), according to UNICEF. Those children represent 44% of the total population in the age group of five-to-16-year-olds in the country. This number has only increased as Pakistani educational institutes had to close due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The camel libraries carry books and tech bags which not only contain tablets to facilitate learning, but also solar panels so the tablets can remain charged throughout the trip. In the provinces of Balochistan and Sindh, using camels is the most efficient method of transporting goods, books in this case, over rough and mountainous terrain. The camels provide the means of getting books into the hands of children who are in distant, rural villages.
Making a Long-Term Impact!
The camel library has to date benefited more than 2000 children in 16 different villages. As Basarat explains: “The idea appeals strongly to me because it is eco-friendly, generates love and respect for animals, provides money earning opportunities for camel owners, and most importantly is the means of spreading knowledge."
Murad, who walks his camel to four villages in Mand feels happy that he is of service to children and is helping their development. He now sends his own daughters to school too, and says, "I am not a literate person. I have never gone to any school, but I feel very proud that an illiterate person like me has become a source for education for children who want to learn.”
WaterBridge Outreach is excited to be part of this innovative project and to be supporting ALBBS with another project that brings books and literacy materials to those in need. It is truly inspiring to see what started off as one camel library, in Mand, Balochistan with Roshan the camel, is now becoming a fleet.