As soon as you enter the Agial Foundation for Educating Beggars and Marginalized Children in Sana’a, the hustle and bustle of the street outside is forgotten. Inside this small space about 20 children sit quietly reading books and watching education and entertainment programs on the facility’s television set.
Bookshelves are neatly organized and indexed according to genres so children can easily find reading material that interests them.
“Those two have been studying in the foundation since they were kids,” said Hana Al-Maqwali, the library’s supervisor, pointing to young boys engaged in a game of chess.
This library, which opened in 2005 and now has over 500 books on its shelves, has been hailed as the biggest success in a library creation project that was started in 1998 as part of a Social Fund for Development initiative.
The Social Fund for Development, a government entity that provides money for social issues, helped start 87 libraries with this project in cooperation with the Yemeni Association for Culture and Knowledge Dissemination (YACKD), a local non-profit.
These libraries were established as public spaces for children, but some have grown into facilities for people of all ages and some seek funding from international book organizations to keep their libraries growing.
The library called Number One is in Souq Inqad, near Bab Al-Yemen in Sana’a. It provides a contrast to the Agial library.
Number One occupies a small space on the upper floor of its sponor’s building. Its sponsor, the Environmental Awareness Center provides health services for schools and stay-at-home mothers.