Oct 8, 2020

ECHO library adapts and goes from strength to strength

a new library user, a new farsi book!
a new library user, a new farsi book!

In times of uncertainty, when even socialising now carries with it issues of protection and social responsibility, it is projects like ECHO mobile library that shows the importance of connection in our communities. When Greece came out of lockdown, we started our sessions as quickly as we could. Then in August, after taking a two week summer break, the reaction when we returned to our weekly sessions was one of pleasure and relief, with one library user saying that they'd been afraid that we had stopped forever, with others jokingly telling us never to take a holiday again!

Whilst acknowledging how much the library as a service is valued by our friends we have taken extensive measures to ensure that we do not contribute to the spread of Covid 19 amongst vulnerable populations. We have also had to re-think how we run our children's sessions and this week the kids' team distributed more than 300 educational activity packs for our younger library users to use at home. The situation in the camps remains very poor, with the threat of Covid adding to an already fraught situation. Yet, amongst all of this we are happy to say that the library continues to be used to improve people's present and support their future.

Last month alone, despite working at only half capacity (several of the camps that we usually visit are currently on full lock-down) we loaned almost 200 books, distributed 160 learning resources and managed to fulfill many requests for our library users, from drawing guides to poetry, from sewing instructions to basic maths. 

The ability to confidently and independently communicate is one of the most empowering tools for our library users. In one of the camps Mahmoud* a regular user, requested from us a means of learning French from Somali. He wanted to be able to better communicate with his fellow French-speaking neighbours and room-mates. After reaching out to our network and a lot of searching, we found an excellent printable online resource which he is now using on a daily basis. And it's not only French: Mahmoud's neighbour is using our resources to teach his wife English, several of our new German resources are already on loan, whilst hundreds of others have taken our materials for basic communication in Greek and English these past two months. 

It means a lot to us that in these difficult times that friends, family and strangers have continued to reach out and support the library's essential work in offering education, community, hope and opportunity to those who need it. On behalf of our library users and volunteers, thank you.

 

*name changed for confidentiality

our team and a library user
our team and a library user
ECHO library team
ECHO library team
a budding young library artist
a budding young library artist
Jun 10, 2020

ECHO Mobile Library - COVID-19 Report

Facemasks for our new socially distanced library
Facemasks for our new socially distanced library

It’s been an unforeseeable couple of months. We’ve been working furiously since Greece went into lockdown to deliver mealsto people shut in without food. As Athens went into lockdown in mid-March, most of the services that had previously been serving food to people without access – such as charities Caritas and Ankaa, as well as the Athens municipality–- went on pause. This left a lot of people without food, just as any income from informal work they might have had also seized up.

We joined forces with our old friends at Khora social kitchen to distribute hot meals and supplementary dry food for people with their own kitchens. They’re all volunteer organisations who are doing this with very limited funds - donate to help them buy food if you can! We helped translate text messages, collect addresses and then whizzed around the streets of Athens in the old van delivering food. The days have been long and and our field co-ordinator Becka has been an absolute superstar in covering it – so here’s to Becka.

Now we’re coming out of lockdown, and opportunities to run library sessions are opening back up. We’ve been running (socially distanced) library sessions at the women’s shelter in the Attica region, twice a week to satisfy desires for English classes. And just in this last week of May we got news that we can begin sessions again in Korinthos and Malakasa camps.

It’s still a time of huge uncertainty for us (as we suppose it probably is for you too, kind supporter). Not only is there the challenge of running our service in an effectively socially distanced way, but the hostile climate towards refugees, migrants and anyone seen to be helping in this area is continuing to escalate. We are endeavoring to keep up with government demands for registration and papers, but fear most for those living on the islands where the focus of the stigmatisation appears to be.

On the upside, we received this touching text message from one of our readers, in response to the news that books were coming again to her camp:

"This is for me extremely good news. I'm very happy and just waiting for your group. "

And our first returned book, an anthology of poetry, came from a young Afghan woman. She said it was what had been getting her through the last three months - reading the a bit of poetry every morning.

We hope that you have also been finding peace and beauty in literature - or other small things that bring you joy.

Love and solidarity from the whole library team.

The library van stocked with food for delivery
The library van stocked with food for delivery
Kids activity leader Christa ready to teach
Kids activity leader Christa ready to teach

Links:

Feb 5, 2020

ECHO's end of the year term-card

An English lesson through Arabic at Oinofyta camp
An English lesson through Arabic at Oinofyta camp

Firstly, a very happy new year to you from all of the volunteers here at ECHO! It’s been a busy year for us - we’ve drove 115,000km to reach over 2950 library users. I'll link our end of year report at the bottom of this letter if you'd like to see more. 

Thank you again for supporting the library through your donation this autumn. In September our bank account was nearly empty again and we reached out for support to help us keep running sessions into 2020. People like you answered our call, and together we raised £4,290 (equiv 5021eur, or 5611usd). 

Since then, we’ve been able to loan 626 books and distributed an estimated 1260 language learning resources. We’ve been able to keep running classes out of the library space - from formal English lessons through Arabic at Oinofyta refugee camp to informal exchanges over tea at the Victoria Square Project in Athens. 

How did we use your money to do this? Well, so far we have:

  • Printed essential language learning resources and translation documents, from mother tongue languages like Arabic and Farsi into English and Greek (£1010)
  • Repaired the van (fixing a leak in the roof, replacing a tire and a broken wing mirror). (£178) 
  • Bought stationary to aid our lessons and help us create learning materials (£45)
  • Got a guitar case for our guitar which allows us to offer music lessons (£26)
  • Bought fuel and paid tolls on the roads (£270)


The remaining funds will help us to continue covering costs like these in the coming months. Most importantly, the money you so generously donated - in addition to a grant from Help Refugees - will allow us to invest in a new van so that we can keep the library going long term. We will send you an update as soon as we have news! 

In the meantime, we’d like to share with you a poem that one of our library users wrote. One ECHO volunteer, Amira (pictured here), spent her time with the library teaching English through Farsi to a small group of Afghani girls. They found that they shared a love of poetry, and by the end of their time together one of the students produced a poem that she translated into English. It is haunting and beautiful.

Love and solidarity from the library team here to you - have a wonderful new year!

***apologies for the tardiness of this report. I have been informed that some of our community are only recieving this report in February due to a technical error. We are still getting our head around this platform - we promise to have the next report at the end of this month on time. Thank you for your patience!

Luliana and Zahra browse Farsi and Arabic books

Luliana and Zahra browse Farsi and Arabic books
An English lesson through Arabic at Oinofyta camp
An English lesson through Arabic at Oinofyta camp
Reading together with teacher Frans
Reading together with teacher Frans
Women's poetry club at Oinofyta
Women's poetry club at Oinofyta
Shemya's poem
Zahra and Luliana browse in Victoria Square
Zahra and Luliana browse in Victoria Square

Links:

 
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