A personal appeal from Rageh Omaar
Rageh Omaar recently presented our BBC Radio 4 Appeal. In this blog, he tells us why he’s so pleased to support our work.
For me, Book Aid International’s work is personal because I’ve seen the impact that books can have first-hand in the city where my family is from, Hargeisa in Somaliland.
I found out about the charity’s work when they provided 100,000 brand-new books to the Silanyo National Library in Hargeisa – a library I helped my friend Ahmed Dahir Elmi build from the ground up.
Now those books are a huge part of what’s made the library a haven for conversation, debate and learning – and a symbol of the city’s recovery from decades of war. I visit as often as I can, and seeing young people exploring those books and getting the knowledge they need to complete their education and build their city’s future is just a joy.
But it’s a joy that is still out of reach for so many people, and that’s why Book Aid International’s work is so important.
I’ve reported from every corner of the globe as a foreign correspondent, and wherever the news has taken me – there is one constant theme… people struggling to feed and protect their families. Few can imagine the luxury of buying books.
In fact I’ve seen how during war, places of learning become targets. But I’ve also witnessed how when teachers are forced to flee their homes, one of the first things they do when they reach refugee camps is to establish makeshift schools. Under trees, in sheltered caves or in tents. They teach children to learn from just an old textbook and a chalkboard because there are just no books.
When war forces you to abandon everything at a moment’s notice, taking books is the last thing on your mind. And yet, when people find sanctuary, the hunger for books – for the written word – is essential.
Books allow people to remind themselves that as desperate as their plight is, they are connected to learning, humanity, humour, culture and our shared history and values.
Access to books would mean so much to so many – and Book Aid International is doing the work to give everyone that access.
They reached 13.1 million readers last year. In Syria, they’re providing the books students like Ahmed need to finish their degrees. In Iraq, they’re restocking the University of Mosul Library after Islamic State burnt it to the ground. In Ethiopia, they never stopped sending books even as the country was consumed by war.
13.1 million sounds like a lot – but there are still so many people out there with no access to books. This appeal will enable Book Aid international to reach more readers around the world.
The charity receives no government grants. Every book they send, they send with the support of people just like you.
I have seen Book Aid International’s work up close. I can vouch for it. That’s why I’m urging you to listen and donate, and tell all your friends and family to do the same.
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