Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a student activist group on campus, recently undertook a unique – and ultimately, successful – endeavor to bring aid to children in refugee camps in the Middle East by attempting to diffuse knowledge through literature. They put together a two day event, co-sponsored by the United Arab Society, promoting Kitabi Kitabak or “My book is your book”.
Kitabi Kitabak is an organization led by a group of ambitious young people dedicated to building libraries in every refugee camp and marginalized area in the Arab world. This organization coalesced on July 2009 in Amman, Jordan, around the deeply-cherished belief that knowledge is “a sacred right”. More fundamentally, it flourished with the understanding that the acquisition and proliferation of knowledge “is vital to the development of a nation” – especially the education of children, who inherit the world we leave behind. This idea spread, and thus the United Arab Emirates chapter of this organization launched in August of 2009 with the aim of contributing to the project by “pooling the necessary resources to it.” So far, they have successfully established two libraries – one, in a Gaza refugee camp in Jarash, Jordan, and the other in the Dir Ammar Refugee Camp in Palestine.
Ursula Barghouth, a fourth year Biology major and president of SJP, found out about Kitabi Kitabak through an email from a representative of the organization. It piqued her interest because, “it’s just bringing books to children — there aren’t any politics involved. It’s purely a humanitarian cause,” she said. She hoped that this encouraged people to donate because through this, they would be able to touch children’s lives and brighten their futures.
Those who supported this cause felt the same way. “I want the children in Palestine to have the same opportunities I am getting,” said Salma Abulebda, a third year Chemistry major. “Knowing that this brings them one step (however small) closer feels immensely gratifying.”
SJP managed to raise a hundred dollars in two days. “We got a great response from people of all backgrounds,” said Barghouth, “and the people that hesitated probably weren’t as passionate because they just weren’t aware of how desperate the situation is in the camps,” she continued. One student, however, was very excited about this cause because her father had also undertaken a similar endeavor to build libraries in poor villages in India.
SJP aimed to accumulate sufficient funds in donations so as to buy a combination of English and Arabic, fiction and nonfiction, books suitable for children between the ages of 5-17. They plan to contact local libraries and ask for donations in the form of books as well. The books thus acquired will be shipped to the Kitabi Kitabak organization in the Middle East.