Families in refugee camps abroad make the most of Arabic books donated by Kalimat Foundation Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: It’s not coincidental that the UAE designates March as the Month of Reading; this month is celebrated across cultures as a season of renewal, reflecting the transformative nature of reading. As the renowned critic and poet Abbas Mahmoud Al-Aqqad put it, “Reading grants a person more than one life.”

In this journey of renewal, the role of the Kalimat Foundation (KF) from Sharjah stands out as an example of the impact reading can have on people’s lives. Take the case of Saher Abdullah who lives with his family in a refugee camp in the Netherlands. As a refugee, like hundreds of other Arabs seeking a safe haven, his mundane life took a turn for the better after he heard about the arrival of new books through the foundation’s global initiative, ‘Pledge a Library’.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

Just as March heralds the beginning of a new season, Saher and his family opened a new chapter when the library arrived at the camp. Unable to wait, he took his daughter Masa and his son Ahmed to pick up new Arabic titles that strengthen their connection with their identity and mother tongue. He said: “We are extremely thankful. Having Arabic books makes us feel closer to home.”

Visually impaired children can't thank Kalimat Foundation enough as the ‘Ara’ initiative enables them to read accessible books suited to their needs. Image Credit: Supplied

Masa and Ahmed were not the only ones who have benefited from this initiative; Arab children in many refugee camps worldwide and visually impaired children found KF a haven for them. The ‘Ara’ initiative enabled them to read accessible books suited to their needs, fostering their passion for reading.

Ara… bringing light to the blind

Kalimat Foundation believes knowledge has no boundaries and is vital to instilling joy and confidence in blind and visually impaired children. Disabilities should never be a barrier to acquiring knowledge and enjoying the pleasure of learning. This was expressed by Bilal from Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum School in Jordan, who said: “Thanks to Kalimat Foundation, this is my first time reading stories, and I’m extremely happy because we had no story books in Braille. I loved it because it triggered my imagination and flourished my mind with wonderful thoughts. It taught me things I never knew before.”

The spirit of giving found in KF’s initiatives shines throughout the year, rekindling hope in the hearts of blind and visually impaired children and providing an opportunity to delve into the world of books. Through the Ara initiative, the foundation has donated 30,000 accessible books in 11 countries. This affirms that reading recognises no disabilities, aligning with the Marrakesh Treaty, which believes in providing the access of knowledge for everyone.

Pledge a Library… paving the way for refugee children

Similarly, the ‘Pledge a Library’ initiative stands as a model in supporting refugee and displaced children, having distributed 16,700 books in 24 countries. For refugee children, knowledge in Arabic becomes a link to their homeland and a means to build a better future. This is embodied in the humanitarian vision of Kalimat Foundation which donated libraries, each containing 100 books in Arabic, reflecting its commitment to spreading culture and knowledge.

Reading is key to progress

Amna Al Mazmi, Director of KF, highlighted that the foundation’s strategy reaffirms reading is not a luxury but a fundamental prerequisite for the growth, prosperity, and stability of societies and a basic right akin to food, shelter, security, and dignity. She pointed out that the foundation is committed to ensuring this right for deprived and displaced children in their countries and refugees abroad, stemming from Sharjah and the UAE’s belief that reading is a pillar in the developmental journey of people and nations.

Al Mazmi said, “With this strategy, KF became one of the most prominent global platforms that brought together many parties involved in developmental work. KF became a leading model in facilitating children’s access to knowledge sources and unified efforts towards this noble goal. This status qualified the foundation in 2023 to win the Special Commendation category award from the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC).”