Traveller’s tales: Sending 1,000 books to libraries in Tajikistan

Now more than ever, it’s important to find ways to lift our spirits and focus on the good that this world can sustain. With that in mind, I’m very happy to share my very own good news story. For various reasons, I wasn’t able to publish this at the time, but better late than never...

Umedvor’s Mobile Library

Books are powerful tools to unite and transform communities around the world.

Back in late 2017, I shared an inspirational story about Umedvor, a charity that set up an imaginative new library scheme in and around Khorog in mountainous south-eastern Tajikistan.

I was so inspired by what Umedvor is doing that I asked what I could do to help.

Umedvor’s logo

Umedvor’s former director Zohir Shomusalomov said that they were looking to expand their library collections and are keen to include books on almost all topics to offer diverse and interesting choices to readers. As well as their Mobile Library, Umedvor was planning to build and set up free Book Kiosks around Khorog to loan out titles.

Zohir told me that “unfortunately, we are really lacking good books in English for children, young people and adults with a range of English language levels.”

Although it’s possible to source and purchase books from local English language publishers (e.g. in Bishkek or Moscow), they don’t have the vast range that UK based publishers are able to offer. They therefore preferred to obtain a wide selection of high quality books known to have been enjoyed by British readers, direct from the UK.

That was the brief, and this was the result:

Over 1,000 books were collected!

2018-01-07 22.12.32
A small mountain… Just some of the books that journeyed to the real mountains of Khorog

Around half are for children and young people. There are books on everything from dinosaurs to management textbooks, and from folk tales to fiction!

I am incredibly grateful to the brilliant people across the UK who, in a very short space of time, were able to source all these wonderful books for Umedvor.

The list below is a THANK YOU to everyone who helped build this mountain-sized collection.

It’s not just individuals who helped, but two British volunteer library groups with a history of strong community engagement.

In an English town the size of Khorog, residents organized a successful campaign to keep Stony Stratford Library open. And in south Wales, Llyfrgell Maindee Library is entirely volunteer-run.

With 22 boxes of books in London, the next step was to find support to get them shipped. Step in Pamir Energy, which generously agreed to sponsor the shipment of the books all the way from London to Khorog!

Pamir Energy has already supported Umedvor’s innovative community projects and we are delighted and very grateful to the company for continuing to champion the importance of books and libraries.

The books eventually arrived safe and sound in Khorog in April 2018. Here are some before and after photos from their journey:

The books have been out in circulation in Umedvor’s book kiosks and their mobile library for over a year now. See which titles you can spot in this short November 2020 video (in Tajik with Russian subtitles):


Book donors in the UK

A small sample of the books donated to the Stony Stratford collection box

In Stony Stratford… Jane and David Wolfson, their friends, the Andante choir, together with members of the Friends of Stony Stratford Library. Many of the donors in Stony Stratford are unknown: books simply appeared in the collection box left outside Jane and David’s house.

In Bedford… Nick Kettle, Marilyn Leask, James and Gerta Valentine

In Oxford… Giorgia Caleffo, Stella Cauldwell, Anna Henry, Susi Poli, Kate Robinson, Tracey Smith, Lou Sumner

In Bristol… Jenny Campion-Smith, Christine and John Gaskell, Sally and Rob Holbeche and girls, George Lovesmith

In Brighton… Katy Ruffels and family

In Dorchester… Sue and Charles Campion-Smith, Jenny and David Crane and boys, Dorchester Book Group

In Newport… Amanda Wicks and the Llyfrgell Maindee Library

In Derbyshire… John and Shelagh Wolfson

Some book donors asked not to have their names published, so this THANK YOU is for everyone else who offered us books.

Support for logistics & admin

In the UK… Nido Guljon, Aliya Sabzalieva, Caz Swanson, Muzaffar Zoolshoev

In Tajikistan… Pamir Energy, Ofarid Amidkhonov, Rozik Chorshanbiev, Nafisa Gulshaeva, Kimyo Sabzalieva

Globally… Asad Sabzaliev, Jane Wolfson

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