LAHORE: “Once you are done reading a book, pass it on to those who cannot afford to buy one.”
That was the message sent out to the public at a three-day youth camp organised by Creative Alley, a student-run organisation, in collaboration with Global Changemakers, a project of the British Council. The camp concluded on Sunday, a day before the International Day of the Book (today).
Tanzila Khan, the director of Creative Alley, said that the camp at the Mall of Lahore aimed to empower the young and to raise awareness about the need to donate books. She said she was overwhelmed by people’s response to their message, but there was still a need to further raise awareness among the general public. People are aware of the need to donate books, she said, but they need to be nudged to do so.
Khan said she had interacted with more than 500 people through dialogue and activities at the three-day camp. She said the books donated at the camp would be used to help build libraries in schools for the under-privileged, both private and government. Fifteen volunteers helped collect books at the camp.
Mohammad Sohaib, a dentistry student and one of the volunteers, estimated that they had collected over a thousand books. “People rarely know what to do with old books. Our camp is a way of telling them to spread the knowledge they hold so dear in their homes,” he said.
He said the books were sorted by subject and those relevant to school curricula were donated to children with under privileged backgrounds while the rest were donated to school libraries. Other collected texts were exchanged for books that could be of use to students.
“We aim to make learning and education fun for children,” said Tehreem Tauqir, another Global Changemaker and camp participant. She said the camp had raised awareness about education through fun activities. “No one is going to sit through a boring lecture on the importance of learning. You have to reach out to people,” said Tauqir, an A level student at the Lahore Grammar School.
Also working with the ‘I Wish Knowledge’ project of the British Council, Tauqir said as many as 60 schools had been helped out in various ways, “be it painting the school building, providing books or just speaking with the children”.
More than 15 NGOs participated in the camp including Bargad, Pakistan Youth Alliance (PYA) and Pakistan Youth Literary Society (PYLS).
Asim Ali, an accounting student working with PYA’s Educate Pakistan campaign, said they were educating imprisoned women and children by building libraries and donating books to Kot Lakhpat jail. Ali said it was important to provide greater opportunities to children who were in jail. The PYA had previously helped build schools in flood-hit areas of the country.
Ahmed Farooq, a volunteer with the Lahore chapter of the PYLS, said he had arranged for 500 books to be donated to the camp by encouraging students to donate used textbooks.
Zubair Ahmed, event manager at PYLS, said that engaging young people through interesting activities was the best way to raise awareness about education needs.
Members of Chanan Theatre presented a small play on gender violence that aimed to “bridge the disconnect between the rural and urban youth”.
“Girls especially have a great passion for learning and we should aim to provide them with opportunities to do so,” said Danish Sohail, a member of Chanan Theatre.
Sohail said people should have greater access to libraries. “We cannot afford to have libraries with restricted access in a country which ranks so low in literacy,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2012.