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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
Jan 24, 2020

We Need Books' Multilingual Library Update

Dear friends,

Every Sunday children arrive from different parts of Athens, alone, with friends, with their parents or teachers, to read. They are Arab speaking children, mostly from Syria, who, urged by their schools, are entering the Arab Reading Challenge, a highly competitive event held annually in Dubai. From now until April, each of them will have read and summarized 25 books and our library is the only place in Athens where they can find a variety of age-appropriate books in Arabic. 

So they come Sunday after Sunday. There were there in the freezing cold, before we got heating for the library. Some of them change three buses to get here. Week after week we talk, we get to know their names, what books they like most. It gives us great joy to see every space in the library occupied by children with books on their lap!

We would like to thank you once again, as it is with your support that we are able to buy quality books in the languages of our young readers! 

With gratitude,

Ioanna Nisyriou & Nadir Noori

Founders of We Need Books  

Links:

Oct 28, 2019

Official opening of our Multilingual Library!

Invitation
Invitation

Dear friends!

We are delighted to be celebrating the opening of our multilingual library / multicultural center on November 1st, with drinks and music and on November 2nd with activities for the children! 

Finally Athens will have an inclusive cultural center, a place where children can read stories in their maternal languages, where people can meet and exchange ideas, organize events together and learn from each other! 

It is your contributions that made this possible and we hope you are as proud as we are that together we have given Athens' First (and only) Multilingual Library a permanent home. 

In our new space we are offering free Greek & English language lessons to refugees and migrants, workshops for children and adults and after school support for migrant children. We also do screenings, organize community and networking events and art exhibitions. In our new garden, we plant vegetable with the children and learn how to look after the plants. And we have plenty of space for our large collection of books, a seperate area for the children's library, comfortable seating for reading and two co-working spaces!  

We hope that you will remain with us in our efforts to empower refugees to build a new life in Athens and to create a more inclusive society.

With gratitude, 

Ioanna & Nadir

Founders of We Need Books

 
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