Dubai: A nine-year old Kenyan girl based in Dubai has collected more than 60,000 books and set up 20 libraries in underprivileged schools and children rescue centres in rural towns across Kenya since 2019.
Khushi Gadhia, a Year 5 student at GEMS Jumeirah Primary School, started the project ‘Old Books for New Eyes’ during Ramadan in 2019. She has teamed up with more than 15 schools, including GEMS-JPS, and three companies since then to collect pre-loved story books. She has also partnered with a logistics company that shipped the books for free to Kenya and partnered with Lions Club in Kenya to help set up the libraries in rural Amboseli, Narok, Ruiru and Kakamega.
Khushi’s parents (Vikesh and Dipa Gadhia) approached Gulf News to share her story and to gather more support as she intends to set up a total of 30 libraries for children in Kenya and start the Uganda chapter by October 2021. With support from more schools, volunteers and companies, Kushi intends to gather a total of 100,000 books by end of 2021.
Born in Kenya but living in Dubai since 2012, Kushi has a kind heart. She told Gulf News: “I was visiting an underprivileged school in Kenya with the Lions Club team for a project initiated by my brother in 2018, when I saw that the school did not have a single story book.
"I was disheartened because these students did not have access to any story book to improve their vocabulary, or fire their imagination. That was when I decided to do something about it. During Ramadan, 2019, I requested my school, GEMS Jumeirah Primary School, if I could put a book donation box at our school entrance. My school supported me and the initiative resulted in thousands of books coming from the school community and other schools also joined in,” she added.
Khushi collected story books — fiction and non-fiction — for children aged 3-16 years. A logistics company in Dubai handled the shipping and delivered them to the Lions Club, that in turn set up the libraries at 14 rural schools in Kenya. What next?
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With the success in Kenya, Kushi is planning to expand the project to Uganda by the end of this year. Her aim is to collect 100,000 books by the end of this year.
While the physical books project was impactful, Khushi has also realised that the project has its limitations, especially on the transportation of books and setting up of libraries. To widen the reach of the project, Khushi and her parents have also launched the digital books project called Kupepo (kupepo.com) — a platform where anyone can read a story book and share with the Kupepo team. The platform is provided for free to needy students globally.