NEW DELHI – An Afghan group will publish a picture book about slain Japanese Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, who dedicated his life to improving lives in the war-torn country.
Gahwara, a nongovernmental organization based in the country, plans to issue in June a total of 2,500 copies in Dari and Pashto, both of which are official languages in Afghanistan. The book, which will be about Nakamura’s work in Afghanistan over the past three decades, may also be translated into Japanese.
Nakamura, who was a representative in Afghanistan of Japanese aid group Peshawar-kai, would be leading a safe and comfortable life if he had stayed in Japan, said the NGO’s founder, Zabih Mahdi, expressing his gratitude for his contributions.
The doctor, who was killed last month at age 73, sacrificed himself and changed Afghanistan, he said, stressing that he wants to spread the message that Afghans must sacrifice something in order to improve living conditions in the country.
Mahdi, a 31-year-old Afghan government official who was close to Nakamura, established Gahwara in 2016. The group’s name means cradle.
The organization translates foreign picture books and publishes them in Afghanistan, where it is difficult to obtain high quality picture books, to teach children the importance of peace, gender equality, tolerance and forgiveness.
Mahdi believes it is important to teach such ideas to children, as it is difficult to change one’s way of thinking after becoming an adult.
The group receives translations and artistic contributions online from 47 people around the world.
The NGO has translated 27 books, including a Russian story about a king who defeats an evil wizard by acting in good faith, publishing a total of 225,000 copies.
The works are also posted online so that children who left Afghanistan as refugees or those in remote areas of the country can read them.
For the publication of the picture book about Nakamura, Japanese mail-order company Felissimo Corp. will supply financial assistance so that copies of the book can be distributed to schools and kindergartens in Afghanistan for free.
The company, based in Kobe, teaches people in developing countries how to produce food and other products in developing countries and imports the items to Japan.
Felissimo has already given Gahwara financial assistance via the Japan International Cooperation Agency from money set aside from a portion of the company’s sales.
If sales grow for products listed on a special website, Felissimo may be able to provide more financial support so that the NGO can publish more copies of the book. The website can be found at www.haco.jp/landp/index.html.
Mahdi was drawn to picture books while he and his family lived in Japan, where they arrived in 2015 through a JICA program.
He and his son were introduced to Japanese picture books at the time and discovered that just looking at the artwork was enough to make the books enjoyable. There are “huge messages in small books,” Mahdi said.
He hopes to bring Japanese picture books that impressed him to Afghanistan, which lacks good books for children. Mahdi cited an example of an Afghan textbook that uses the word “gun” to teach the letter G.
With the help of JICA, Gahwara is negotiating to gain permission to translate and publish children’s books from Japanese authors, but the group hasn’t had any luck so far. “I hope authors and publishers will allow us to publish (their books),” he said.