Designing a Mobile Library for Kids in War-Torn Kabul

For weeks there was no word from Freshtha. Jackie and I presumed she didn’t like our designs. Happens, we told ourselves.(Jackie runs JIA Studios, The CHA Project’s rendering partner).

And then a message popped up on my laptop. It was Freshtha Karim apologising for the delay. There was a bomb blast in the neighbourhood. People she knew had died.

And like a lightening bolt the reality of her situation hit us. They are living every minute of their lives with the fear of losing their loved ones, of death and destruction…

Freshtha Karim runs an amazing NGO in Kabul. With one battered bus and a few books on board, Charmaghz takes children into a fascinating world of knowledge and imagination through books. And away from their harsh reality, for some time at least. A space where Afghan children under 18 can “wonder, read, ask questions, be themselves and have fun”. Freshtha wants to create a “supportive, enabling environment to help children grow to be positive and open-minded individuals”.

We began planning the interior of the bus as a magical realm of animals and nature, in colours and textures that would transport kids into another world. We planned the exterior to be a knowledge canvas, with engaging infographics on a range of topics – from the solar system to the human body – making even waiting to get on the bus a learning experience.

However, this was Kabul. The brief was very different. We had to design something that could be implemented with restricted availability of materials and it couldn’t be too conspicuous either. So we binned all our doodles and idea napkins and got back to the drawing board.

She loved the first draft. Waiting now for a post-pandemic normalcy when they can turn the designs into reality.

– Rinkoo Bhowmik




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