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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
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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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

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Organization Information

We Need Books

Location: Athens, Attica - Greece
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Ioanna Nisyriou
Athens, Attica Greece
$21,743 raised of $60,000 goal
 
228 donations
$38,257 to go
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