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Empower Refugees To Build A New Life In Athens

by We Need Books
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Empower Refugees To Build A New Life In Athens
Empower Refugees To Build A New Life In Athens
Empower Refugees To Build A New Life In Athens
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

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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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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  

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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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Nadir breaking tiles.
Nadir breaking tiles.

Dear Friends and Supporters!

 

As we mentioned in our previous report, we have rented a large space for our multicultural center to move to, which we are currently renovating. All building work is expected to be over by August 15th. Then we will be faced with the daunting task of unpacking and putting on shelves all our books, which are stored in 350+ boxes! Meanwhile, all our lessons and activities have been suspended until September. 

The new space will have a teaching room, a large area for reading, for socializing, for exhibitions and events, a children's space and a little back garden. Most of the furniture has been donated and a lot of the work is being done by us, former students of ours and local volunteers. 

We will leave you with some more good news. Justine Hanna, an Australian librarian we met last year, has managed to source 4 boxes of Arabic books for us and has even managed to raise the funds needed to ship the books to us from Melbourne! So when we open again in September we will have the largest collection of Arabic books in Athens! We are thrilled!

You can listen to the intervew we gave Ms Hanna here:

https://newcardigan.org/cardicast-episode-43-we-need-books-and-echo-refugee-library-greece-interviews/

 

We wish you a very happy summer,

Ioanna & Nadir

Founders of We Need Books

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Organization Information

We Need Books

Location: Athens, Attica - Greece
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Ioanna Nisyriou
Athens, Attica Greece
$22,568 raised of $60,000 goal
 
245 donations
$37,432 to go
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