November 13, 2021
The U.S. evacuated more than 65,000 Afghans from their homeland before the final withdrawal of U.S. troops, which took place one minute before the August 31, 2021, deadline set by President Biden. Since then, 24,000 Afghan refugees have arrived in the U.S., with 23,000 waiting on U.S. military bases abroad and 20,000 waiting in other countries.
More than 40% of these evacuees are children, many of whom are by themselves and not with their families.
Since 2009, Hoopoe Books has offered special bilingual Dari-Pashto editions of its books and has donated them to more than 5.4 million children throughout Afghanistan. Sadly, the Taliban takeover has forced us to suspend this Books for Afghanistan program indefinitely. We have now turned our efforts to welcoming newly arrived young Afghan emigrants to their new homes, by giving them these same traditional tales from their own country in beautiful, illustrated bilingual editions that pair Dari or Pashto – the two main languages of Afghanistan – with either English, French or German.
When asked to describe her impression of these children, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said: “They’re incredible in the sense (of) the resilience – you can see it on their faces. There’s obviously hope and excitement about a new future in a new country. There’s certainly anxiety and fear, because even though they are children, they still know the potential risks for family that they’ve left behind.”
We hope we can assist in welcoming young Afghans as they arrive in the West, by providing stories that help them continue to read in their mother tongue and, at the same time, learn to read in the language of their new home. They’ll be able to share these stories from their homeland with their new friends. We will continue to provide these books free of charge, as long as there is a need and generous friends who enable us to keep this program going.
So far, 11,818 bilingual English-Dari and English-Pashto Hoopoe books have been donated to 21 refugee programs in the U.S alone. Under the circumstances, photos of the recipients are hard to come by, but we did receive one of a little girl named Meherangez, who is now in Sacramento, California. Someone stuck a unicorn’s horn and ears on her head – and though we’re sure she has no idea what a unicorn is, her bemused but indulgent smile indicates that she’s letting it all flow over her with great aplomb.