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Empower Refugees To Build A New Life In Athens

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

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

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:


We wish you a very happy summer,

Ioanna & Nadir

Founders of We Need Books

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

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 

Our french language section
Our french language section

Dear friends,

In our last report we were happy to announce that we got given a space by the Municipality of Athens to temporarily use for our project. We got to work and very quickly set up a small multilingual library, with more than 3,500 books in more than 10 languages (Arabic, Farsi, Pashto, Urdu, English, French, Greek, German etc). There is a space designed for children, filled with wonderful children's books and games, a space for showing films, for reading, for working, for socialising. Everyone keeps saying how cozy and warm it feels to be here which is an enormous reward for our efforts! Slowly but surely, we are establishing stronger bonds with the community.  

We have this space until April and we are truly making the most of it. We are offering English lessons to refugees twice a week and we will soon start giving Greek lessons, too. We have regular workshops for children and narrations of stories in different languages. We host social evenings with live music, where musicians from the camps play together with local musicians, we host film screenings for the unaccompanied minors who live in the shelters nearby and we arrange activity filled visits to the library for the Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi and Kurdish refugee children who are going to Greek school. The space is full every day and we couldn't be happier! 

We have recruited three more wonderful volunteers, Jenny, Juliette and Issa, so now we can have the space open all days of the week! We have also started cataloguing our collection, which is a slow process but a most important one! 

At the same time we are preparing for our next campaign. Knowing that this wonderful space is only available to us for just a few more months means that we must be ready to move to a permanent location this spring. We need to make sure that this vibrant community that is being built around the library has somewhere to go when this programme ends. 

Before I go back to work, I am sending you some photos of our cozy little library and a huge, huge thank you! If we have managed to get this far it's only because we have you standing by our side!

In solidarity,

Ioanna Nissiriou

Co-founder of We Need Books 

You might recognise Hala, second to the right!
You might recognise Hala, second to the right!
Nasroudin looking for children
Nasroudin looking for children's books in Pashto

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Organization Information

We Need Books

Location: Athens, Attica - Greece
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Ioanna Nisyriou
Athens, Attica Greece
$15,365 raised of $60,000 goal
167 donations
$44,635 to go
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