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May 3, 2019

Getting ready to move!

Gulwali Passarlay talking about his book
Gulwali Passarlay talking about his book

Dear Friend,


It's going to be a very busy summer for We Need Books and we need your support as much as ever!


As communicated in previous reports, the Municipality of Athens had given us use of a wonderful space for our pilot multilingual library from October to April. Recently it was decided to extend the library's stay at the three-floor building of Theatre Sq until the end of July. While we are still there, we have organized two events:


On May 17th musicians from different parts of the world will meet at the library to perfom for each other, exchange ideas, discuss the challenges they are facing, try to find solutions together and hopefully collaborate on future projects. This is organised in partnership with Tolerance Maneuver, a band from the UK who are coming to Athens especially for this event. They will be joined by musicians from Eleonas camp, from the NGO Musikarama, by local musicians, musicians from the different migrant communitites, all playing different instruments and styles but all wanting to connect with each other. Their performances will be open and free to the public.


On May 20th until the end of June we will be hosting our second artistic exhibition, around the theme of books and otherness, with the participation of local and international artists.   


During our time at Theatre Sq the library has become a meeting place for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, a place to read, to study, to participate in workshops, to learn new languages. Also to take part in events such as the Literature and Empathy as Tools for Social Inclusion Open Panel Discussion organized by We Need Books which took place in March (see photo). We were very happy that Mr Passarlay, the human rights activist and author of A Lightless Sky, an autobiographic book about an unaccompanied boy's journey from Afghanistan to the UK, came especially from England to join our esteemed panel which included award winning author and translator Maria Angelidou, Vice Mayor for Refugees and Migrants Lefteris Papagiannakis and Sofia Kouvelaki, CEO of The HOME Project.  


In the 9 months we have been there we have also extended our collaboration with other NGOs working on the field in Athens and we have been able to support various refugee hospitality centres around Greece with book donations so that they can create their own libraries. So when this collaboration with the Municipality of Athens ends, it is important that the library relocates and that all its activities carry on without interruption. 


In anticipation of that moment, we have already found and rented a space to relocate to. The new home of the multilingual libray will be in Kypseli, the most culturally diverse area of Athens and home to other grassroots NGOS, shelters and community initiatives. We are in the process -with the help of our valued volunteers- of planning, cleaning and painting the new space before we move our collection of 9,000 books which has been in storage and the pilot library from Theatre Sq. As we were recently able to purchase a significant number of quality books from Iran, the new library will have the best open to the public collection of farsi books in Greece. We thank you kindly, as the purchase was done using funds donated by you and our other supporters through GlobalGiving. More importantly, thanks to you, we have secured the first year's rent! 


Please let us know if you want to get involved in any way in the designing of the new space! All ideas are welcome! 


In solidarity,

Ioanna Nisyriou & Nadir Noori

Founders of We Need Books

Apr 29, 2019

Progressing to the last phase of the project!

Dear Friend, 

Nearing the end of the project we are happy to inform you that our collaboration with Praktiker Hellas, the big home chainstore that has been with us -and the people whose life and property have been affected immensely- from the very beginning, providing goods  at a discounted price, has continued unceasingly. 

Moreover, we have finalized our collaboration on the field with Caritas Hellas, the Greek branch of the international Catholic organization, which have helped us connect with particular people whose needs have ranked very high up in the spectrum of needs and who have been beneficiaries of the Caritas psychological support program in the area.

However, this program has concluded in the end of March. We Need Books were the last to collaborate with the wonderful people of Caritas with whom future joint endeavors have been discussed already.

The 10 families referred to us by Caritas received 500 euro each in the form of a prepaid purchase card that is used for home equipment although it was more than obvious that the financial needs were much higher.

All the beneficiaries have provided us with the necessary documents proving their current situation. Photographs of the improvements made with the use of the prepaid cards have been asked to be sent to us as soon as the purchases are made. However, we were reluctant to ask for their own photographs -meaning faces- for reasons that can easily be understood.

Despite the program coming to an end, we are still looking to make good use of the remaining sum and are going back to double the assistance one of our first beneficiaries received – a family with 7 members- as well as two more families that have come to our attention and we feel we can accommodate. Should any amount remain from the grant, we will cover more needs of the ten aforementioned families.

Wish us all the best in this last phase!

Feb 4, 2019

A lot of hard work and good news from Athens!

Submission to participate to the IFLA conference
Submission to participate to the IFLA conference

Dear friends, 

We are so happy to share with you the latest update about our project!

Every week we see new people visiting the multicultural space we have created in the centre of the city, to read, work or study. In addition to the English language class, we now also have three Greek language classes for beginners and a German language class. There is demand for a fourth Greek class and a French class and we are hoping to start these within the next two weeks. We are still holding workshops for children and adults, which become more popular as we become better known to the public. Our workshops are free and open to everyone and offer a rare opportunity for Greeks to meet and socialise with refugees. As before, all classes and workshops are run by specialized volunteers. We are delighted to have 14 amazing volunteers working with us already and the team is about to grow even more! 

The holiday period was very busy and productive, as we held our first ever fundraising event, an arts and crafts bazaar which enabled us to raise over 1,000 euros for buying materials for the classes and the workshops! We also hosted a celebration for Afghan mothers and children, where we played, exchanged ideas and made new friends!  

All this time we have also been sending books to camps and shelters outside of Athens, usually in remote areas, were refugees live in isolation from the rest of society and in very harsh conditions. We are now able to do even more, as we have recently started a partnership with the Kalimat Foundation in the UAE, which will allow us to distribute 600 children's books in Arabic to different organisations so that they can also start their own little libraries.  

Furthermore, we are organising a panel discussion for March, entitled "Literature and empathy as tools for social integration" to raise awareness on how literature can help the local population to better understand and appreciate the different cultures and history of asylum seekers and migrants, to relate to their plight and to deconstruct previous notions that were built on stereotypes and fear of the "other".

We are only able to carry on with our work because of your generous and continuing support for which we are forever grateful! We are hoping to write to you soon with more exciting news! 

In solidarity,

Ioanna Nissiriou

Co-founder of We Need Books 

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