Book Project another weapon against terror

In about six weeks, there will be a connection between Fayette County Public Schools and the Zindagi Trust Schools in Pakistan. And, through that connection, many people hope the U.S. will have as much success in fighting terrorism as with the drones our military flies into that country.

Lexington will be sending new and used books that will educate some of the younger victims of poverty terrorists target. It's another way of chippings away at the Taliban.

The International Book Project is partnering with two agencies to provide needed text and library books for elementary-age children in Karachi, Pakistan.

IBP purchased many of the 10,000 books it is sending from a surplus Fayette County schools no longer used. Others were donated by individuals or by the store, Half Price Books. Added to that will be 10,000 new textbooks donated by Pearson Education, an educational publishing company.

Then the 20,000 books will be distributed to the poorest regions of Pakistan where the Zindagi Trust and the Central Asia Institute makes sure they get into the hands of children wanting to learn.

Better educated children might resist the Taliban. And all that starts right here in Lexington at IBP.

"Lexington should be very proud," said Rachel Lewis, IBP executive director.

Headquartered in Lexington, IBP ships more than 150,000 books to schools, community centers and organizations worldwide each year. Since it was founded in 1966, the organization has sent more than six million books across the globe.

This particular shipment will be sent to schools run by the non-profit Zindagi Trust, founded by Pakistani pop star Shehzad Roy, and the Central Asia Institute. Zindagi Trust provides basic literacy education to children who have to work to help support their families. The charitable organization takes a group of children in certain neighborhoods and pays them a stipend to attend classes in the afternoons, five days a week, so that their families won't miss out on their earnings.

The Central Asia Institute, co-founded by Greg Mortenson, author of the bestseller, Three Cups of Tea, focuses on educating females, primarily, in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Mortenson has said that along with sending more troops into Afghanistan, we in the U.S. should also concentrate on educating the young people.

Education seems to be key no matter where we live.

But why English language books in Pakistan? Lewis said that is the first question many people.

"Pakistan has a strong English tradition," she said. "Pretty much, it is the secondary language of commerce. The books will help the children learn English at an early age."

She said this particular project began in the summer. Through the end of the month volunteers will load books into sea containers — large metal boxes designed for overseas shipping — which then will be trucked to Norfolk, Va., and then shipped overseas.

The process will take about six weeks and shipping costs have been donated by the Virginia Clark Hagan Foundation in Lexington.

IBP was founded by Harriet Van Meter who, when she visited India, had seen university students standing in line to read books that were so scarce they couldn't be checked out. She began shipping books from her basement. "We send about eight sea containers each year," Lewis said, to places like Liberia, Cameroon, and Tanzania about once every quarter. The agency not only ships the large 32,000- to 40,000-pound containers, but also about 400 small shipments year round, Lewis added.

IBP, located at 1440 Delaware Ave., accepts donated books from individuals as well. In fact, they need more books written in French and Spanish.

Not all the books will be sent overseas, however. Some with references to holidays, religion, or vampires cannot be sent. Neither can cookbooks or books about Kentucky.

But those books and others can be found in the IBP bookstore which sells books for not much more than $1. Bookstore hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Through the work of IBP, we in Lexington are helping to fight terrorism as well as illiteracy throughout the world without leaving the Bluegrass.