What do you do when Paulo Coelho tells you to send books to Balochistan? You send books to Balochistan, duh!
On Monday evening, Brazilian lyricist and novelist, best known for his work The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho, tweeted: ‘Send books to Balochistan, they’re building reading rooms’ with a news story from Pakistan.
Without any surprise, the tweet gained significant attention and retweets in Pakistan and many are wondering if he has a Google alert for himself (I wouldn’t be surprised if he does).
On the brighter side though, lets become an ally in this effort to help Balochistan’s youth and kids get the books they deserve to read while growing up.
There’s a lot more to Coelho’s tweet than what meets the eye. Local community members in the province have opened one room libraries in different parts of Balochistan including Naal, Wadh, Awaran, Quetta, Kohlu, Turbat and Gwadar in an effort to make reading material more accessible for the youth.
Around 40 students from different universities in Wadh, Balochistan have developed a Wadh student library committee and together they are converting many abandoned spaces into small libraries and corners.
One of their recent efforts is the Wadh Student Library that has been opened in an abandoned room previously used to consume drugs.
These reading centers have enabled children from local communities to read authors like Coelho and Elif Shifak amongst others; that they otherwise are unable to find around them. Thanks to the generous donations, the libraries have also begun to become safe havens for readers who cannot find bookstores in the rural villages of Balochistan.
Community efforts are a ray of hope - a sign that the locals are craving for change. That is when energies are directed towards a cause.
However, often this labour can be insufficient unless others join hands.
Sikander Bizenjo of Balochistan Youth against Coronavirus (BYAC) realized this, and instantly offered support. Through an open call on Twitter, Bizenjo has been able to donate 500 books to these libraries in the past few weeks - an effort they are looking to scale.
BYAC was formed earlier this year by Bizenjo, Banari Mengal, Dr Yasir Baloch and Khalid Ismael - all youth of Balochistan to offer coronavirus related support to the province.
“We started this initiative with affiliation of Global Shapers Karachi to offer food and support to rural villages in Balochistan that were adversely affected by the pandemic and the lockdown. Soon we began offering support to medical doctors and frontline staff and then gradually to essential workers those in banks etc. We’d collect donations and protective units and kits to distribute them amid these professionals,” he revealed in a conversation with Images.
With the decrease in cases, BYAC decided to extend their support to other areas in these communities.
“We noticed these libraries and reading centers have no government or official support, and thought of donating books to them. We found out what kind of books are required in libraries in Awaran, Wadh, Turbat to collect what they need,” Sikandar added.
From children’s books to sociology and even political science, the team has managed to collect, categorise and send volumes.
Bizenjo also informed Images that all the donations thus far, have been through social media and word of mouth.
“We have developed and posted a Google form on Twitter and that’s how people are reaching out to us,” he says.
One could wonder what makes BYAC a reliable option to donate books for Balochistan, but Sikandar’s regular tweets displaying the books donated to specific regions in Balochistan, leave us with no doubts.
According to him, children hailing from these small villages in Balochistan have not seen the world outside. “They are fascinated to see the world through books. There lies a thirst”.
Let’s give them access to the world, the childhood they deserve and some books to read!