Books for Baghdad project yields big results

Rachael Scarborough King
Star Staff Writer
Published: June 14, 2006

The second drive in Jacksonville State University’s Books for Baghdad project is going strong, with more than 15,000 books collected and scheduled for shipment at the end of June.

Safaa Al-Hamdani, professor of biology and the founder of Books for Baghdad, said he is “thrilled” with the new wave of support for his effort to help restock the library of Baghdad University, his alma mater.

Al-Hamdani and JSU recently were honored with a distinguished-service award from Baghdad University.

“The books holding right now is not great, and we are the major contributor to improve the education and the library in Iraq,” Al-Hamdani said.

Al-Hamdani started his first book drive in 2004, collecting 11,000 books and $6,500 in school supplies to send to the university. With the national attention that his program received, donations continued to arrive after the books were shipped, leading to this second drive.

The Boys and Girls Club of Anniston donated 10,000 books, and organizations around the country also have sent supplies. Al-Hamdani said the focus is on math, science and technology books because that is where the greatest need lies and because those subjects usually are taught in English.

JSU is hoping to increase its collaboration with Baghdad University once the security situation in Iraq stabilizes, said Al Harris, director of the university’s news bureau.

“Initially we wanted to establish several ties like we have with Wuhan University in China,” Harris said. “We have an ongoing partnership with that university and we thought, well, this is a great opportunity to do the same thing with Baghdad University.”

Harris credited Al-Hamdani and the student and faculty volunteers with the program’s success and said that JSU’s support is based on the educational benefit to students.

“It’s a humanitarian program that shows our students that there is a far larger world beyond campus,” he said. “It’s a way to get involved in the larger world.”

There is a possibility for a third book drive if Books for Baghdad receives continued support from JSU, Al-Hamdani said.

“When we deliver these books and we take a breather we will see what happens with this shipment … and see if we can help them further and in different ways,” he said.

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