Uni Librarian sits with a child during reading time - promoting literacy.FLEX alumni from Kazakhstan operated an extraordinary library in the summer of 2014, the Uni, a portable reading room for public spaces. The Uni Project was originally started in New York City as a nonprofit and arrived to the southern Kazakhstani capital of Almaty in 2012. It’s absolutely a unique development: a mobile installation, which can be set up in any available public area to promote the culture of literacy and learning.   It emphasizes the importance of seeking knowledge and serves as wonderful tool to gain new skills beyond the walls of schools and libraries.

The Uni was staffed entirely by FLEX alumni from June 10 – August 19. Alumni oversaw the project daily and held regular events to promote the library and its sponsors; events and celebrations such as U.S. Independence Day, a hip-hop dance workshop, and FLEX Club.  Alumni also held unscheduled reading times for children, aimed to help the children understand the stories better and promote family reading.  In total, alumni put in over 720 hours of work and reached out to nearly 10,000 community members over the life of the project.  In 2014, Uni was sponsored by the U.S. Consulate General in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in cooperation with American Councils for International Education and Begalin State Children’s Library.

Alumnus Bunyod Abdukarimov ’12 highlights the lessons he learned while working as a librarian: “Being involved in the Uni Project library has been such a special and useful experience, indeed. During work shifts, I met so many kids and adults, who are interested in learning more!  As for me, it is also something new, something I have never participated in before. Communicating and assisting people, reading and explaining books helped me to improve my interpersonal communication skills. I am sure that Uni helped visitors to get into the habit of reading more and expanding their outlooks. The most interesting part of the project for me and the community members who used Uni is that people do not need to bring anything: no library cards, no identification documents are required. Just come and read! There are no restrictions and no interference. It is all about the freedom to read and enjoy the outstanding environment. If I were one of the readers, I would be really grateful for this opportunity to come and enjoy books.”Uni Librarians 2014

The following alumni worked and volunteered at Uni, Jamilya Abidkhozhayeva ’13, Laila Ali ’12, Timur Amanbekov ’14, Daniyar Irgaliyev ’14, Botakoz Koshkarova ’14, Asel Uvaliyeva ’12 and Project Coordinator Aliya Jakupova ’11. International FLEX alumni living in Kazakhstan Bunyod Abdukarimov ’12 (Kyrgyzstan), Ali Hamrayev ’09 (Turkmenistan), and Zarrinakhon Mulloboyeva ’13 (Tajikistan) also joined the team this summer.