Jan 14, 2021

We Need Books under the 2nd lockdown

Children at the new library in Moria#2
Children at the new library in Moria#2

Dear friends,

I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well.

During these tumultuous times it is easy to feel stunned and helpless. But it is precisely now that we should be gaining strength from our beliefs and values and stand tall in their defense.

Education is the cornerstone of the world we imagine is possible. It is the gateway to democracy, peace, equality and prosperity. In our part of the world, access to education has taken a beating because of the pandemic but it is worst for the refugees in the camps who have been completely cut off from any access to education. The children cannot go to school and cannot participate in the online lessons as they do not have the equipment, privacy or access to electricity for great parts of the day. There is nothing for them or the adults to do, nothing that would help them rebuild their lives in the future or to even to dream about their lives in the future.

As you know, books that we had sent last summer to the library in Moria refugee camp were burnt in the fire that destroyed the entire camp. A couple of months ago we launched a microproject to buy books for the children and adults in the camps, in their native languages. Although we have not reached our goal yet, today we placed the first order for $1,000 worth of Arabic books. The next order will be for books in Farsi and the one after that for Urdu books. We are in touch with groups of refugees in the different camps and they are expecting them to start their own little libraries. We know the books will be well looked after, as we know how precious they are to those who have missed them so.

We also launched our Adopt a Book program on our website and social media, which is another way to gather support for Athens' first and only multilingual library and to spread awareness about the plight of refugees in Greece. 

There is so much to do and we often feel overwhelmed. I assure you, we never lose sight of our goal and we will never give up fighting for the right of free access to education for refugees and migrants. 

There are so many open wounds in the world right now, we know you feel them too. That is why we cannot stress enough how appreciative we are of your continuous support for our cause.

We wish you health and happiness for 2021 or you and your loved ones. 

 

With solidarity,

Ioanna Nisyriou

We Need Books

Managing Director & Co-founder

Links:

Sep 16, 2020

We Need Books during the pandemic, too!

Cataloguing in the time of the pandemic
Cataloguing in the time of the pandemic

Dear friends,

 

We hope you and your loved ones are well. 

These are difficult times for all of us. The pandemic keeps spreading but life needs to be lived, and libraries need to serve their communities. We Need Books Multilingual Library and Community Center is open to the public again. Having said that, we are taking every precaution to keep our beneficiaries, volunteers and staff safe. The space is open to the public only three days a week, for four hours. Lessons take place outside those hours and class participation has been limited to four students only. Everyone is requested to wear a mask at all times and antiseptics are available on every surface. 

As of July, a new member has joined our team, thanks to a grant we received from the Ioannis S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation. Eleni, our librarian, is cataloguing our collection and developing a lending system, which is needed now more than ever. The goal is to have a lending library of 1,000 books in at least five languages by March 2021. Our student, Abdala, is helping us with the cataloguing of the Arabic books. When our catalogue goes online it will be much easier for our Arabic speaking friends from the camps to find books they are interested in.

In October we will be launching an Adopt A Book fundraising initiative, to which, of course, we will be inviting you to participate! 

In the beginning of the summer we sent several boxes of books to the library and school refugees built inside Moria in Lesvos. Everything that was there has now turned to ashes after three days of fires that destroyed Europe's largest refugee camp. Today is the 8th day that over 12,000 asylum seekers are living on the street, with children and babies, very little food and water and no protection against COVID 19. The situation is chaotic and it is not clear how one can help from afar. If, however, you want to contribute to the efforts made by local organizations to feed, clothe and protect the refugees, we are more than happy to put you in touch with our partner organizations on the island. As I said, these are difficult times for all of us, but for some they have become unbearable. 

 

Until we reach out to you to Adopt A Book, stay safe and stay positive.

With solidarity,

Ioanna Nisyriou

We Need Books

Managing Director & Co-founder

May 20, 2020

Covid-19 Impact on our Library: New Challenges and Opportunities

Keeping distances in our meeting.
Keeping distances in our meeting.

Dear friends,

This has been a difficult time for all of us, and we hope you and your family are managing to stay safe and healthy despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the beginning of March, We Need Books' Multilingual Library / Community Centre was full of people and our calendar full of events; three to four language classes a day, our weekly cafe for language practice, school homework support for local children, music workshops, storytelling and people who came just to read books in their own language or have a friendly chat. We had interviews planned for the post of librarian (we received a small grant so we can actually hire one!). We had planned projects aiming to reach more refugees in the community and a list of good ideas that would further improve the Library services.

Then the pandemic made its way into everyone's lives. We stopped everything and went into lockdown. A large number of people who visit the library come from crowded camps or have health issues and almost all are vulnerable. It was our responsibility to keep everyone safe, beneficiaries, staff and volunteers, so we shut immediately, even before the official date. 

During the lockdown we tried to stand by our community by sharing reliable information about protection against COVID 19 through our social media, in several languages. We regularly uploaded links to books in Arabic or Farsi that could keep company to our friends in the refugee shelters. We tried our best to keep communication alive between our beneficieries and volunteers, using ways that we were not familiar with. We are all for personal contact, it was very challenging for us to switch to video calls.

It was even more challenging to move the lessons to an online platform. In the end that didn't work at all. Our students are refugees and migrants and not all of them have laptops or reliable internet access or even a quiet place where they live to participate in an online class. Georgia, who is in charge of our educational programmes and also teaches Greek, would email homework to her students and then call them one by one on their mobile phones to go through questions, give feedback and most of all, check that they were ok and make sure they understood the measures imposed by the government.

Effective May 4th the government is gradually lifting the lockdown. Although Greece has fared quite effectively in containing the pandemic crisis the danger is still present.

So where are we now? We got a donation from a private school of masks and antiseptics for the library. We are regularly meeting with other organizations in the area to see how we can support each other and support the communities we serve. We opened the library, staff and volunteers only, to have our meetings and discuss the best ways to move forward. And when we are there, someone will always knock on our door and ask if we are open. We invite them in to read for the duration of our meeting. You cannot say "no" to someone who needs a book and a place to be!

We don't know exactly how we will navigate through these times, but we are cautiously optimistic and doing the best we can to be where we are needed and to keep everyone safe.

Lastly, on behalf of the entire We Need Books team I would like to thank the GlobalGiving team and our donors. We are grateful for the support you have provided us during this challenging times. 

We hope you and your loved stay healthy and safe!

Ioanna Nisyriou & Nadir Noori

Founders of We Need Books

Georgia correcting homework during lockdown.
Georgia correcting homework during lockdown.
The prototype of the masks that were donated to us
The prototype of the masks that were donated to us
 
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