Building the minds of Yemen’s orphans

6 Dec
Orphans at Dar Al-Aytam read books in their new library, established on Thursday.

Malak Shaher

Yemen Times


“We are the seeds of this country, we will make our country prosper, we love knowledge and we spread love everywhere.”

With those words hundreds of orphans hailed the arrival of a new library to Dar Al-Aytam, a state funded orphanage in Sana’a. The children were listening to a song and as it drew to an end they said in one collective and excited voice, “I love books.”

The new library, established on Thursday, is part of the “I love my book” campaign, run by Global Change Makers, a British Council initiative.

This year, the campaign has targeted three public schools, one private school, a school for special needs students and the Orphan House in Sana’a, according to Elham Al-Quhali, a project assistant at the British council.

“We found that the children are thirsty for knowledge and reading,” Al-Quhali told the Yemen Times. “They want to be pushed forward and we want to continue this program. We urge other organizations to join forces with us.”

At the library’s opening, small boys were pushing each other and rushing to get inside the new library. Hamza Mohammad, 9, could barely contain his excitement. “These books are beautiful,” he said with a sparkle in his eyes. With books I learn new things.”

Mohammed Al-Shami, the head of Dar Al-Aytam, stressed the significance of this ‘generous gift.’

“This library has added greatly to our school, which now contains many more subjects for learning,” Al-Shami said. “With the establishment of this library, our orphans will occupy a place in others minds. People will be able to imagine them reading.”

The campaign is coordinated by young members of Global Changemakers and financed by the British council.

Global Changemakers formed in 2007, is a British Council initiative, aimed at providing support for young social entrepreneurs and community activities.

“Books build the minds of small children,” said Haitham Al-Thobabi, 22, a member of the Global Changemakers.

The campaign also involves establishing a reading club and targeting schools and the publishing of a quarterly magazine. The magazine will consist of the children’s writings and be distributed in the schools and supporting organizations.

It will create cooperation between teachers at the school libraries where students will be introduced to new books and encouraged to read.

“Most children in Yemen are not used to reading and the only books they do read belong to the school,” said Najeba Haddad, Yemen’s deputy minister of culture.

Illiteracy rates are increasing among small children in Yemen, according to a recent report by the Yemeni Shura Council. Around two million children are not enrolled in school and a large number of students drop out during their early years of schooling in order to work to support their families.

According to Hadad, it is important to instill a motivation to read in children from a young age who otherwise wouldn’t develop this important habit.

“I encourage the efforts of such campaigns because they involve more children and make reading interesting for them,” she added.

Boys and girls sing a song about the importance of reading at the library opening day.  TY photo by Malak Shaher


2 Responses to “Building the minds of Yemen’s orphans”

  1. Attaf November 3, 2011 at 7:53 am #

    Is there a number I can reach I want to help??

    • malaakshaher November 12, 2011 at 6:31 am #

      yeah sure. let me look for the number and i will send it to you.

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