Empower Refugees To Build A New Life In Athens

by We Need Books
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
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
Empower Refugees To Build A New Life In Athens
Empower Refugees To Build A New Life In Athens
Nadir with a group of international volunteers
Nadir with a group of international volunteers

Dear friends,

We are happy to share with you what we've been up to these past few months.

Earlier in the year, it came to our attention that a group of refugee girls who were coming to the library were not attending school. We found out that the reason was their parents' hope that they would soon be relocated to another country and saw learning Greek as a waste of time. In order to ease the girls back into education -they have been out of school for three years!- we organized English classes for them. They never miss a class and they are all smiles the moment they come into the library! Plus they are slowly starting to participate in our other cultural activities for children. I was eavesdropping on their class the other day, hearing how they want to become teachers and doctors and dentists when they grow up and I couldn't believe my ears! Were these the same girls who couldn't speak a word in English a few months back? Their verbal and reading skills have skyrocketed! They are making so much progress! 

We have also started a bi-weekly parents' group, and we are organizing therapeutic writing workshops for adults, both coordinated by mental health professionals. We are hosting a weekly Language Cafe for English and Greek practice and we are getting ready to participate in Refugee Week, which is taking place in Greece for the first time this June. We also hosted a group of volunteers from customer.io who, among other things, got our back yard all ready for summer, freshly painted, weeded and planted! And we are delighted to say that over 3,700 books have been added to our lending section and are available to our 127 library members! 

But we would be lying if we said the obstacles we have to overcome and the challenges we to have face every day don't get to us from time to time. Usually they have to do with paying the rent and other operational costs. These, however, have been overshadowed by co-founder Nadir's second arrest since the beginning of the year. Nadir has been living in Greece for 20 years as an asylum seeker and he still hasn't been given permanent resident status. His permit needs to be renewed every two years, a procedure which often takes a year, leaving him and thousands of other refugees and migrants with no papers, no right to work, to access to their bank accounts and unprotected against police arrests. It is difficult to talk about social integration of refugees in a meaningful way, when the ground they are building their future on is so shaky.  

Thank you for your kindness all this time, 

Ioanna Nisyriou 

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xmas presents for the kids!
xmas presents for the kids!

Dear friends, 

Towards the end of 2021 there was a calm before the storm of COVID 19 Omikron variant which allowed us to open up the library for events and connect with more members of our community.

In November we partnered with Norwegian Norsensus Mediaforum for "CHARMMS: challenging refugee and migrant media stereotypes", a program which consisted of three workshops that were addressing ways that professional and amateur content creators can provide positive images of refugees and migrants in Greece, through their work. Young and older refugees participated and received training on storytelling for advocacy and networked with professional journalists. After the successful completion of this project, we decided to repeat the workshops on a smaller scale and train young people to organise themselves in the camps where they live, their schools and their communities. 

We also held our first book presentation! "Amir's blue elephant", by Melissa Hekkers, which recounts the author's experience as a volunteer in one of the refugee camps in Lesvos and her involvement in raising awareness on migrant and refugee issues. 

But mostly we did things for and with the children! We celebrated World Migrant Day with storytelling and held arts and crafts workshops for our little friends with every opportunity! 

Before the end of the year, we also managed to launch our new website, through which visitors can access the library's ever growing online catalogue, become members or participate in the Adopt A Book program. We are also part of a group that is organising Refugee Week to be held in Athens for the first time this summer. And our tutoring program is under way, with one class so far and another one to follow soon.

We saved the best news for last! Through our latest GlobalGiving appeal 2,170$ were raised allowing us to give free annual library memberships to 106 refugees and disadvantaged local families! Hurray! 

For 2022, continuing the cataloguing of our collection and increasing memberships are our main goals, as well as further strengthening our ties with the community. 

We thank you kindly for your continuous support and we wish you health and joy for 2022!

With gratitude, 

Ioanna Nisyriou

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Dear friends,

Since May, we have been very busy! But the most important thing is that the library is open and people are coming. We have up to 15 visits a day, which is pretty much the maximum number of visitors that are allowed in at the same time due to COVID-19 government restrictions.

After one particular visit we received the most heartwarming communication from two social workers, which we would like to share with you:

"We had the opportunity to visit and get to know better the We Need Books Library and Community Centre, the organization and its people, as part of our work in a shelter which supports and protects abused refugee women.

Our constant goal and preoccupation is to introduce and familiarize the women with important entities and organizations in the city in order to contribute as much as possible  in a holistic and meaningful integration and empowerment for themselves and their children.

In our search for such synergies, we learned about WNB, which operates in the center of Athens.

The people of WNB throughout our communication demonstrated admirable professionalism and were from our first contact open and willing to organize a visit that would be meaningful to the women of the shelter and their children.

When we visited the space we realized that it is a living and accessible point of reference in the city where refugees, migrants, visitors and local Athenians meet to participate in the various activities that it offers; reading different types of books in many languages, language lessons, relaxing in the backyard or the sofas, creative play in the specially designed corner of the library and a plethora of cultural activities. The women from our shelter immediately felt welcomed and promised that they would return.

After our collaboration with WNB, it’s our strongly held opinion that the Library/Community Centre constitutes an original and much needed project that is coordinated by caring, mobilized, and able people. Despite the short time it has been in the area, it has already become an inseparable and most valuable part of the community of Kypseli and the center of Athens in general. It's a project that not only deserves to continue, but which, if it’s gone, it would deprive professionals and activists of a dynamic tool in their arsenal and would strip the city of a space that is truly open and constructive for everyone without any barriers and discrimination."
It was with your support that the dream of Greece's first multilingual library materialised and we are forever grateful! We hope you will remain by the side of We Need Books so that together we can continue to offer valuable services to the refugee community in Athens. 
In solidarity,
Ioanna Nisyriou
Managing Director and Co-founder
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Posing with teacher and hard earned certificates!
Posing with teacher and hard earned certificates!

Dear friends, 

Thank you for your support. We are delighted to share with you news of our students' success!

All five of our students passed the official A2 language exam and have in their hands a certificate that testifies to their dedication and commitment to learn Greek and become active members of the community!

S. is Syrian, married, with five children and has been in Greece for 18 years. Family life and helping her husband with their shop took up all her time and energy. When she saw the announcement for our lessons, she decided it was about time she did something for herself. She enrolled in our class and never missed a lesson. She did her homework in the shop and in-between choirs. When her daughter’s school teacher noticed that that her Greek had improved, she felt so proud she immediately called her teacher, Georgia Fountoulaki, to share her enthusiasm and thank her.  

Georgia would ask the group to meet fifteen minutes early, have some tea and share all the day's joys and frustrations. During the lockdown we couldn't have any lessons in the library and this loss of physical, personal contact came at a great cost to our students. For the women the lessons were their time away from home, their opportunity to socialize. For the men it was a way out of the confined spaces they are living and a step forward in the process of integration.

The day of the exam all were very nervous but Georgia was there to offer her support. When the results came, everyone was thrilled beyond words and eager to know when the B1 class would begin! 

This, dear friends, depends on you, too. 

Although the demand for Greek lessons is very high among refugees and migrants, We Need Books insists on having small groups of students where personal relationships can be built. As the every day reality of our students' lives is a very harsh one, and often comes in the way of their education, it is only in a warm, supportive environment that they can really thrive. And thrive they did!

For We Need Books to be able to offer quality services, we need to compensate qualified teachers for their time, provide educational materials to all students for free and be able to cover their exam fees. For this group of five students, all costs were covered by GlobalGiving and by your individual donations. 

So on behalf of S., N., G., M., M., Georgia and the whole We Need Books team, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR ONGOING SUPPORT! Your contributions really transform the lives of refugees and migrants in Greece!

In solidarity,

Ioanna Nissiriou

Managing Director & Cofounder

We Need Books

Class visit to the Museum of Illusions!
Class visit to the Museum of Illusions!
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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

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We Need Books

Location: Athens, Attica - Greece
Website:
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Project Leader:
Ioanna Nisyriou
Athens, Attica Greece
$31,866 raised of $60,000 goal
 
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