Passing through the breezy drive-thru of McDonalds, Sea View, on a Saturday morning, one may be able to spot about 25 students, dressed in their uniforms, listening to a story being read out or reciting poems.
This is part of a book drive venture taken up by four young students as part of a community service organisation, Eternal Hope. They have placed a box for books' donation at McDonalds, which are donated to different schools for the under-privileged. Moreover, they organise interactive sessions with 25 students from different schools every Saturday to help develop reading interest.
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The recently launched 'Book Drive Campaign' was launched by a 17-year-old student of Karachi Grammar School (KGS), Sameer Shehzad Salim, along with his sister, Nireen, and two cousins, Saif Quraishi, 16, and Zarak Quraishi, 18, who are also studying at KGS. Nireen has graduated from KGS and is currently studying at a university abroad.
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The campaign is benefitting hundreds of children who have little to no access to books. Some people also donate stationery items for the underprivileged children. "[This way], many books lying in our houses will be distributed to children who have no access to them," said Salim.
The teenagers founded Eternal Hope eight years ago to help earthquake victims. "Initially, my sister, Nireen, started it and we all joined her initiative," said Salim, adding that since she is busy in her university now, Saif, Zarak and he manage the organisation.
According to Salim, the idea behind the project was to collect books and set up libraries at schools that do not have the facility. "When the box fills up, their [McDonalds'] manager calls us to pick the [books up]," said Salim, adding that after sorting and dividing books category-wise, they give them to different schools and help them set up a library.
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Through this drive, they have collected over 3,000 books and are hoping to collect many more as the drive expands. Once collected, these books are distributed among schools for underprivileged children. One such practice was done on August 10, 2015, when Salim and his colleagues created the first library at TY Manghopir School.
To promote reading habits among the students of underprivileged schools, Salim and his team also arrange a storytelling session every Saturday between 9am and 10:30am. "Every week, we invite around 25 students from classes three to seven," he explained.
Teachers, mainly from KGS, show up voluntarily and conduct storytelling sessions with the students, which helps engage them with books and encourage them to read. "We arrange sessions school-wise," said Salim. "[For example], some schools request us not to keep any session in English, so we plan the session for math and Urdu accordingly." Salim translates the stories in Urdu for students who do not understand English.
The weekly event aims to benefit hundreds of students from under-privileged schools. It also invites readers and the general public to become a part of the 'much-needed effort aimed at promoting the habit of reading'.
Students from Amman Primary School in Mehmoodabad, which is run by a welfare organisation, were invited for the interactive session this Saturday. An Urdu teacher at KGS, Asif Jamil, read out stories in Urdu and also translated a few words in English to engage students. He also encouraged them to read out their favourite poems or national songs.
The schools are selected on the basis of lack of facilities such as libraries, proper classrooms and number of available teachers. "Our school has around 100 students enrolled and only one big hall, in which three teachers have to manage students from Montessori to class five," said Amman Primary School principal Khadija Zubair.
"We take feedback from schools and also invite different children from the same schools on alternative weeks to get an idea about their improvement," explained Salim.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2016.
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