First Published: 2017-12-14

Lets Write in Baghdad incarnates hopes and dreams of Iraqi children
Investing in childrens potential, stimulating creativity are behind initiative which aims to teach students aged 7-12 to write short stories for other children.
Middle East Online

By Oumayma Omar - BAGHDAD

Elementary school children hold copies of The Adventures of Booboo the Balloon.

When Iraqi poet and writer Qassem Saoudi began Lets Write in Baghdad, he said he did not expect the great response it received or the young talent he discovered.

It was just amazing. The feedback was overwhelming and exceeded all my expectations. It was a worthwhile adventure and a wager that we could win from the first child we talked to. We were happily surprised, Saoudi said.

Investing in childrens potential and stimulating creativity are behind the initiative, which aims to teach students aged 7-12 to write short stories for other children. Supported by Ali Hamza and Manar Madani, Saoudi embarked on his venture in 2016, saying he wanted to incarnate childrens imagination through short stories on paper.

Saoudi started promoting his initiative in 60 public and private schools in areas of Baghdad where, he noted, children could be easily initiated and quickly understand what was required of them without the help of teachers.

Most of the stories that the children produced contained a mixture of joy and hope despite the difficult situation in the country, which we expected to affect their writings, Saoudi said. The children of Baghdad overcame the painful past and present with a lot of courage.

More than 400 childrens texts were collected covering stories about animals, Baghdad neighbourhoods, space and the planets and family problems.

It was astounding to see the children in a country that experienced the calamities of war and arbitrary killings avoid writing about death and destruction. I was stunned by the maturity and creativity of these children when I read all the beautiful stories they had produced, Saoudi said.

Some children, however approximately 5% of the participants wrote about the painful loss of loved ones or the destruction of their home and villages. These were the children we have met in refugee camps, Saoudi said. Their stories were about friends they missed and a desire to go back to their plays and comfortable homes instead of living in makeshift tents and under very difficult conditions.

Among the collected texts, 15 were selected and compiled in a book titled The Adventures of Booboo the Balloon. It was printed with donations from supporters of the initiative and presented at the Sharjah Book Fair. Al-Farachat Publishing House published the book free of charge in collaboration with the House of Scientific Books on Mutanabbi Street, the historic centre of Baghdads bookselling and intellectual community.

Illustrations and drawings were offered by several Arab artists, including Iraqis, a Palestinian and an Egyptian.

We have printed 3,000 copies that we distributed to the schools in Baghdad as a token of the experience that has reflected the aspirations of Iraqs children for knowledge, love and happiness, Saoudi said.

Dima Bassam, the 12-year-old author of the lead story that gave its name to the book, said the idea of the Adventures of Booboo the Balloon was inspired by her wish to visit the ancient city of Babel, which encompasses the worlds oldest civilisation.

I never had the chance to visit that historic place due to the volatile security situation in the country and my fathers busy schedule. I have reflected this wish through Booboo the Balloon, which could fly freely over all Iraqi regions, Dima said.

After wandering for days, Booboo the Balloon finds itself in the southern city of Basra but he does not know how to return home to Babel. While trying to find his way back, Booboo meets a pink flamingo that helps him find his way. Flamingoes usually pause in the al-Ahwar marshes area in southern Iraq during their journey south towards warmer regions.

I have learnt about the cities and regions that I chose for Booboo to visit in geography classes only. Through him I could reflect the dreams of many children who wish to have the same adventures, to travel and to get to know the history of our country, Dima said.

Dimas father, Khalil, said he hopes his daughter will become a writer. She always surprises me with her talents and passion for writing and drawing. I will support her all the way to develop this hobby and talent, he said.

Saoudi said he is confident that Lets Write in Baghdad can contribute to the development of childrens writing skills as well as social and humane conduct. It nurtures their creativity and imagination and reinforces their quest for knowledge, hope and peace away from war and destruction, he said.

Oumayma Omar, based in Baghdad, is a contributor to the Culture and Society sections of The Arab Weekly.

This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.

 

France, US clash with Iran over changing nuclear accord

Saudi Arabia claims killing of Yemen rebel leader

EU to Russia, Iran: Bring Syria to peace talks

Iraq's Shiites split ahead of crucial vote

Iraq’s ex-football stars from sports to politics

Turkey opposition journalists demand acquittal in terror trial

UN says Syria blocking humanitarian aid to Douma

OPCW experts visit second site of alleged Douma gas attack

Israeli policeman gets 9 months jail for killing Palestinian

US court rules for Arab Bank in precedent-setting case

Lebanese candidates pay hefty price for media coverage

Madani’s resignation sheds light on Iranian power play

Kuwait expels Filipino ambassador over treatment of workers

Syria aid donations for 2018 fall short of amount hoped

Growing anti-war sentiment in the US Congress could spell trouble for Trump

Liverpool’s Salah wins Israeli defence minister’s plaudits

Body of assassinated Palestinian driven through Malaysian capital

'Gap in perceptions' threatens wider Middle East war

UNESCO picks Morocco for project on prevention of violent extremism

Syrian regime retakes region near Damascus from rebels

Mogherini: Iran deal 'needs to be preserved'

Syria rebels prepare as Assad sets sights on next target

Iran's Rouhani questions 'right' to seek new nuclear deal

Trump, Macron call for 'new' nuclear deal with Iran

Syria's Idlib 'big new challenge' for international community

UNRWA chief says Palestinian aid $200 million short since Trump cuts

Bad memories resurface at Raqa’s mass grave

Turkey newspaper chief slams journalist terror trial

Setback for Yemen rebels after strike takes out leader

Saudi issues Islamic sukuk sale to finance deficit

Yarmuk, an epicentre of Syria's bloody conflict

Egypt’s Eurobond succeeds but risks remain

Egypt former anti-corruption chief gets five years jail

Philippines apologises to Kuwait over 'maid rescues'

Iran urges EU not to pay Trump ‘ransom’ over nuclear deal

UAE to finance project to rebuild Mosul's Grand al-Nuri Mosque

EU, UN begin major conference for Syria aid

New tensions rise between old rivals Turkey and Greece

Rouhani warns Trump against betraying nuclear deal

10 killed in Toronto “deliberate” van attack

Nine people killed in Toronto van attack

Yemen Huthi political leader killed in coalition raid

Syria security chief refuses Lebanon court appearance

Air raid kills dozens at Yemen wedding

Algeria draws Europe’s ire by cutting imports, boosting trade with China