Books to accompany you on the road

Children at BoiBondhu Book Exchange Festival 2021. Photo: Courtesy of BoiBondhu

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Children at BoiBondhu Book Exchange Festival 2021. Photo: Courtesy of BoiBondhu

BoiBondhu started in 2018 with the goal of promoting reading. The organization has built small libraries inside buses and hospitals, among other public places.

“People spend a lot of their time sitting in public buses,” says Mohiuddin Toha, founder and chief coordinator of BoiBondhu. “We thought they could use that time productively by reading a book.”

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He founded BoiBondhu with his friends Rashib Ahmed, Mahmudul Hasan Tuhin and Eraz Imran.

A small library by BoiBondhu at Lalmatia Park in Dhaka. Photo: Courtesy of BoiBondhu

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A small library by BoiBondhu at Lalmatia Park in Dhaka. Photo: Courtesy of BoiBondhu

“We started with a box of 40 different books for a VIP 27 bus,” he shares. “We took out a loan to build seven more boxes and have them installed inside other buses.”

BoiBondhu was launched with 100 books from private collections, which have now expanded to thousands of books stored in the libraries of various buses and hospitals.

The organization now has a library at the Infertility Care and Research Center in Mohammadpur, and another in Kamlapur for the transgender community. They were recently granted permission to build libraries in stations and are in talks with naval authorities to install libraries inside ships.

BoiBondhu is currently active in Panchagarh, Brahmanbaria, Chattogram, Sylhet and Dhaka, with over 300 volunteers.

They also hold a book festival every year, where readers can swap their old books for new ones. BoiBondhu exhibits nearly 5,000 books at the festival. “We have already exchanged more than 15,000 books. It is inspiring because many underprivileged children come to collect the books,” says Mohiuddin.

Until now, the founder and his friends have borne the costs of these activities out of their own pockets.

In addition, BoiBondhu intends to set up route libraries in rural areas of Bangladesh for readers in remote villages. “Our volunteers who live in remote areas will manage the books in these libraries,” Mohiuddin shares.

Books will be placed on both sides of a route for locals, who can take any book home for seven days to read.

“We have also set up BoiBondhu Shoshikhar Pathshala in the villages, where experts from various fields hold courses and share their experiences. We have already held six courses in different villages,” concludes Mohiuddin.

The author is a freelance journalist. Email: [email protected]

About Stuart M. McFarland

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