Afghanistan refugees

Scottsdale kids help Afghan refugees read

Anaik Sachdev is at it again.

The 9-year-old Scottsdale Unified student who captured America’s attention by collecting books for COVID-19 patients after his grandmother got sick has turned his attention to the Afghan refugee students in the district.

Anaik, along with his 8-year-old brother Jovin Sachdev and their 14-year-old friend Karina Koppikar are trying to collect 500 books and $1,000 for the refugee students. The $1,000 is to provide each student with a Kindle with pre-loaded educational software.

The books range from fiction to non-fiction to activity books for the youngest children.

“There’s also journals so they can share some of the emotions or draw pictures of what they’re feeling because it must also be very scary, traumatic and frustrating at times,” said Anaik’s mother, Anjleen Gumer.

The books can be purchased on Amazon though a link on Aniak’s website,, and are written in Dari and English and Pasto and English.

Once purchased, the books are shipped to Anaik’s home and distributed through the International Rescue Committee.

Though the kids are working through Anaik’s non-profit, the idea to collect the books for the refugee students was actually Jovin’s.

He got the idea after several refugee students joined his second grade class.

“They make the classroom shine a little more,” Jovin said. “I‘ve learned a lot of things from them. We celebrated their new year and learned about their culture.”

Jovin said he likes to focus on similarities he shares with the refugee students.

“My friend likes stickers and juice and I love juice,” he explained.

Having the students in Jovin’s class has been a wonderful learning opportunity for him, Gumer said.

“It’s been an extremely rewarding and positive experience for him to learn about these people who have a different background and are from a different world, to build a special bond with them even though they don’t speak even the same language,” she said.

Karina, an eighth grader, said she was happy to get involved in the effort.

“(The refugee students) told me they were kind of lonely and really board and when Anaik and Jovin approached me, I thought it was a really great idea,” she said.

Kariana enjoys reading on the school bus to one of the refugee students who speaks English.  

“One (refugee) girl likes reading ‘The Baby-Sitters Club,’” she said. “It was one of my favorites too. I thought it was so cool that even though we come from different countries and speak different languages, we like the same thing.”

There are gaps in the girl’s English skills, but the two communicate, Karina said.

“They are some of the most motivated hard-working people I’ve ever met,” Karina said. “They want to do well and speak English as much as they can.”

Anaik, who is in the fourth grade, said he can relate to the refugee students.

This is important to me,” he said. “I’m a kid and I would feel very scare if I was in their shoes. There a lot of kids from Afghanistan that are very lonely.”

He calls a book “a really good friend to have” in a situation like that: “It can help you escape your loneliness.”

Anaik started his nonprofit, Loving Library, in 2020. His mother caught COVID and the family was quarantined. He read books to pass the time and thought it would be a great idea to share some books when his grandmother caught the disease a little while later.

“I would FaceTime her during her stay at the hospital and I saw she had no sunlight in her room,” Anaik said on his website. “She couldn’t interact with anyone, it felt so lonely. Back home, we were reading books to pass time. I thought to myself that books could be a great escape for loneliness at the hospital.”

His efforts to raise books for Covid patients blew up and Anaik was even on the Ellen DeGeneres show.

Today, Anaik’s Loving Library has chapters in Central Texas and the United Kingdom as well as Arizona. To date, Anaik has collected over 2,500 books and over $40,000.