Esraa's Stories and Fatima's story
Here in Lebanon, we will be completing the e-book soon, and we are preparing for our first ground distribution this weekend. Tomorrow we will do our usual run to the camps we have been reading and teaching at in the southern Beqaa Valley, where we can finally give the children their own copy of the book. Last week in one of the camps we had so much fun making a mini version of the giant watermelon school from the story (see above - with a pumpkin!) so I'm looking forward to seeing how the children react to having their own books and stories to play with.
On Sunday we will distribute books in Shatila, where my Palestinian friends have invited us (Ahmed our translator, our Syrian-Armenian friends, and my parents who are visiting from the UK) to lunch with the twenty-five children who have already read the book. My mum has packed a few simple English books from mine and my sisters' days as kids to help with an initiative we hope to introduce: libraries in refugee camps. These could be managed by the older children in the camps, and we would seek out donations of Arabic books from bookshops and libraries here in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, meetings continue with organisations big and small working on the refugee situation here in the Middle East. We are in touch with World Vision and War Child who are keen to see the book for distribution to their beneficiaries, and we look forward to starting work with the Yalla! school in Aley in coming weeks. Please explore their website to discover a pioneering and beautiful vision, a refugee school made by Syrians, for Syrians.
In the bookshops, one of Lebanon's biggest bookshop chains, Libraire Antoinne are keen to distribute the books in Lebanese schools, to start building empathy and an awareness of the Syrian and Palestiniant refugee situation in the Lebanese youth.
The biggest plan now is the completion of two stories: the first is Esraa's Stories, the next Kitabna book, which is in the final stages of translation, but I'm only halfway through the illustrations.
The second is our first submission of a story from one of the girls we are reading with in a camp in Beqaa, Fatima.
Fatima gave us a story she had written last week and we were so happy to receive it. On the bus back home through the mountains I asked Ahmed to help me translate a bit, but we were both stumped by the dialect Fatima had written her story in. I ran the story by a Lebanese friend of mine who works as a journalist in different regions and we had the same problem. So Fatima's story has so far been a tantalizing one - simply because no one can read it!
But what at first seemed like a problem is actually turning into a new initiative we would like to try, encouraging the children to write first in their dialect, so they can express themselves as comfortably and freely as they like, and then working together with them on translation from dialect into formal Arabic fusha. Then the next stage can be translating into English. This way we can use story writing as a way of improving and building on formal Arabic, the Arabic taught and learnt in schools across Lebanon, Syria, and the Middle East.
Thanks for reading, and if you haven't had a chance to visit yet, come and explore www.kitabna.org !
Our e-book is coming soon!