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Qatar to Cairo: Ongoing Medical Books Drive

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Ahmed Saleh (YES 2008 – 2009, Qatar, hosted by YFU in Charlotte, NC) explains the process behind starting a project to provide medical books to a university in Egypt.

Q: How did this project start?

Saleh: The idea came when I visited Cairo University in Egypt in 2013. I was looking for a few fun books to read during my time in Cairo. Being a medical student, I’d impulsively check out all the medical books at the bookshop and see what they had. It was surprising how expensive these books were, and I came to realize that most students end up using free online resources, or buy “printed book chapters” or other summaries that professors put together for them.

At that time, I thought about all the printed medical books I had back home (in Qatar) that I don’t use. I often use the codes to access the ebook, which is more handy and user-friendly, and rarely use the actual printed book. I thought someone else could make use of my books, instead of having those on my shelf for months! We also had a special section in my college’s library that’s labeled “free books,” where older books are often kept for anyone to pick up for free.

I heard about a student group at Cairo University that started a public library where students go read and borrow books, so I got in touch asking more about what they do, and how to support their initiative.

Q: And what was the response you got?

Saleh: They were quite excited! Back then, they had started their library a year before, and had been working hard to expand. They had two libraries; one was a general library with all sorts of books, and another medical library. They have a reading room where students can go study and read, and they allow students to borrow books for about $2 annual membership fee.

We thought we could collect all the unused medical books here in Doha and ship those to Cairo. So I got in touch with my college’s library, and told them about it, and they had no issues donating all the extra books they had! So I started collecting these books every now and then and shipping those to Cairo. AMIDEAST and the other YES alumni were all a cornerstone of this project, as they’ve been volunteering their time and effort to help collect books and box them before shipping, in addition to partially covering the shipment fees.

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Photo: Saleh at a recent public health workshop put on by YES alumni in Qatar.

Q: What has been the highlight of this project so far?

Saleh: We’ve been getting a very positive response so far. Other medical students at my school heard about the initiative and started donating their old books as well. We ship about 100-300kgs of books every time. We’ve shipped more than 1450kg of printed books and resources so far! The library in Egypt has been expanding and now includes way more resources compared to what we started with, plus the number of student members has grown exponentially. There are about 400 registered student members now.

Q: What are your next steps?

Saleh: We’ve been thinking of the next steps to further improve our connections with the students at Cairo. We’re thinking of starting to sell some of the duplicate books we have for cheap, and use the money we make to further support the library (buying supplies, new shelves, chairs, and tables). The library now has subscriptions to a few well-known online medical journals, and we aim to further expand our online resources.

Ahmed and other YES alumni in Qatar have kept this project going for about two years now, and recently started a relationship with Cornell’s library in Doha to provide ongoing book donations. Students at the medical school in Doha are now also providing financial support to cover shipping costs. On April 20, 2016, YES alumni shipped 350 kg (12 boxes) of donated medical books to Cairo, bringing the total to over 950 kg of books shipped since the beginning of the project. Ahmed continues to send personalized thank you letters to project supporters.

Follow the project at:

Kasr AlAiny Scientific Library

Qatar YES Alumni