Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

The library bus in Afghanistan that is driving change – in pictures

'Our childhood, like millions of other Afghan children, was lost before we could live it. The pain brings us together in order to make a difference'

At only 27, Freshta Karim is the founder of Charmagz, an organisation that transforms buses into mobile libraries.

They drive them around Kabul so that Afghanistan's youngest citizens can develop and foster a love for critical thought and reading.

"We are a group of young Afghans who have witnessed war and its direct impact on our childhood firsthand," says the Charmagz team in their mission statement. "Our childhood, like millions of other Afghan children, was lost before we could live it. The pain brings us together in order to make a difference in other children’s lives."

Children are encouraged to drop by before or after school to read, play chess, learn and debate.

The bus stops in each location for about two hours, and when The National spoke to Karim last year, she told us that they have to take the still devastating realities of life in Afghanistan into account when they choose where to base the bus:

“We park the bus on the inside roads, and within communities, to avoid crowded places that could be likely terrorist targets."

When we visited the library bus last year we met young reader, 10-year-old Zahra, sitting in the corner reserved for solo reading. She spoke of her favourite story, explaining that while she loves reading she does not have many books. "I really enjoyed reading Badhsha-e-Tokham, about a king and his knight. It teaches you to always tell the truth," she says.

"The new stories read here, I narrate them to my five sisters and brother at home," Zahra told us as she handed over three books to Karim, returning them after she had taken them home.

Updated: July 14, 2019 12:10 PM

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