Kalimat takes UAE Reading Month to Egypt

Date Posted 07 Mar 2023

Kalimat Foundation – the UAE-based global non-profit organisation founded to advance literacy by upholding children's rights to access books, particularly for vulnerable and visually disabled children, has taken UAE Month of Reading celebrations beyond the nation’s borders to instil a love of the written word in hundreds of marginalised children across several cities and governorates in Egypt.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC), the UAE Embassy in Cairo and the Egyptian Board on Books for Young People (EBBY), Kalimat Foundation has provided 11 libraries, each containing 100 Arabic language books, to schools charities, orphanages and nonprofits across 11 locations in Egypt through its ‘Pledge a Library’ initiative whose mandate is to deliver reading materials to forcibly displaced or underprivileged Arab children who often suffer from limited access to literature.

Kalimat Foundation also donated 2,100 books in accessible formats to further its ‘ARA’ (I see) initiative’s mandate to boost reading accessibility for visually-disabled children by providing accessible books in Braille, large print, and audio formats, in line with the 2013 Marrakesh Treaty.

Widening literacy’s outreach and empowering young lives across Egypt

Marking the occasion of the UAE Reading Month, which is an annually held celebration of literature and reading throughout the month of March with hundreds of reading-themed activities across the nation, Kalimat Foundation curated the donations in Egypt in order to maximise the outreach of its two initiatives - Pledge a Library and ARA - across 14 locations. The Kalimat Foundation team flew into Egypt to visit several of these beneficiary locations, and met with the officials who they collaborated with to bring these two initiatives to their respective institutions for UAE Reading Month celebrations.

In Alexandria, the Pledge a Library initiative’s 100-book library was gifted to Al Tatawue Haya (Volunteering is Life) in the El Wadi area -King Marriott, Alexandria Governorate. The organisation focuses on developing under-resourced remote areas, while also providing healthcare and social services to families in need.

In Cairo, the Pledge a Library initiative donated a compact library to Kheir Wa Baraka, a non-profit organisation whose central aim is to advance the lives of marginalised children and families in Egypt. The Misr Public Library’s El Zawia El Hamra branch also received the compact library in addition to becoming the first public library in the Arab region to receive ARA’s accessible titles. This is a major step forward for Kalimat Foundation in realising its vision to take the ARA initiative to all major public libraries in the Arab world, making them more responsive to the needs of print disabled readers.

The Kasr El Noor for Blind Children and the Egyptian Association for the Blind were the two other ARA beneficiaries in the Egyptian capital.

Storytelling and character building workshops by Haytham Shokry, founder of Egypt’s Al “Hakawati” initiative

Kalimat Foundation collaborated with Haytham Shokry, an EBBY board member and a mobile storyteller who travels with his stories around the governorates of Egypt, to bring joy to less fortunate children through books.

Shokhry led captivating storytelling sessions of tales handpicked by the Foundation from UAE-based publisher Kalimat Group’s creative publications for children across these locations. The picks included Famous by Coincidence, Tastier than Bananas and My Grandfather’s Donkey - all stories with value-laden morals and messages to build young personalities.

The inclusive storytelling sessions promoted inclusivity and equality, and featured the large print and audio formats of the accessible books, which enabled both visually disabled and sighted children to enjoy the sessions together and interact collectively with the story characters.

The session’s young attendees also got to explore their artistic and creative side by partaking in Holy Month-themed art and crafts workshops based on the Kalimat Group title Ramadaniyat.

Amna Al Mazmi, Manager of Kalimat Foundation, said: “The UAE Reading Month has been observed nationwide since 2017, and was instituted following the vision of our wise leadership to build educated generations who will have the ability to drive tomorrow’s social, scientific and cultural development. The same holds true for every nation in the world, and with this visit to Egypt, we have collaborated with like minded partners to propel them towards realising their goals of educating and empowering their children and youth”.

“The Kalimat Foundation’s strategies and efforts in this direction are particularly vital as we target vulnerable and visually impaired children who are growing up in under-resourced communities, particularly in our region. No matter where children are, they have a right to access basic education and literacy. It is an established fact that nations will enjoy continued prosperity and stability only when they offer an inclusive learning environment that allows full societal integration for those who are marginalised or suffer from disabilities. We pride ourselves in our Pledge a Library and ARA initiatives because their tangible results are evident and they have become a model for successful cultural initiatives in the region and around the world,” she added.

Furthermore, Dr. Saad Abu Zaid, Director of the Misr Public Library (MPL), said, "We are thankful for the integration of Misr Public Library in El Zawia El Hamra in Kalimat Foundation’s generous initiative. We received accessible books for the visually disabled children, and a portable library with a collection of books for sighted children, which we will harness and benefit from, through projects and cultural activities for library patrons, such as storytelling activities and reading clubs that we implement on a regular basis.”

For his part, Dr. Alaa Abdel Halim Abdallah, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Egyptian Association for the Blind and Board Member of the Model Center For the Blind Care & Guide (Qasr El-Nour), thanked Kalimat Foundation for the “ARA” initiative project, saying, “Everything in society starts like a seed, from the childhood, and for this reason, the existence of Kalimat Foundation, an institution that cares about children’s education and culture, is something that we appreciate and support. He added that “Unfortunately, visually impaired children do not get enough attention in the Arab world and they should not be underestimated,” lauding the accessible formats provided by Kalimat Foundation serving this category.

Dr. Nadia El-Khouly, President of the The Egyptian Board on Books for Young People (EBBY), said that she was happy with the collaboration and visit of Kalimat Foundation from the United Arab Emirates, and offering the children the most precious gift of all; books. “This donation will benefit so many children and young adults, making reading a fun part of their daily routine. We cherish the donation made and we extend our gratitude to Kalimat Foundation for its efforts and support to Egyptian society,” she added.

Nevin El-Ibrashi, Founder and Chairperson of the “Kheir Wa Baraka ”, applauded the quality and topics of the donated books, adding: “We are pleased with the visit and the books donated by the Kalimat Foundation to the organisation, which is providing storytelling training sessions to female teachers. These books will be excessively used to entertain and educate the children in the 12 nurseries that they serve.”

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