Tag Archives: Greece

Habiba and her son read together

Remembering our Patron – finding peace in books

His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh was our Patron for 55 years. He was a great reader who believed in the power of books, so this week we are remembering him by sharing stories of people who used books to change their lives.

Habiba and her two children were forced to flee conflict in Afghanistan after her husband was killed. After a long and perilous journey, they arrived on the island of Lesvos in Greece. She and her children have since been moved to a camp outside the city of Ioannis in northern Greece where they have access to a library filled with books you have helped to send. Here, Habiba shares her experiences and tells us of the positive difference that books are making for her and her children as they seek to rebuild their lives.

 

Habiba
Habiba

 

“I have come from Afghanistan and I have two children. My son is five and my daughter is 10.

In my country there was war. My husband was not a soldier. He went out and he did not come back. Some people killed him. And for my son – it was dangerous. People wanted to take him. So I had to leave, I had to find a safe place for the children.

I travelled through my country to Iran then to here. It was very hard to come so far and travel alone with two children.

We arrived in Greece four months ago. We stayed in Moira [the refugee reception centre on the island of Lesvos] for three months. It was very bad – all the people so close together. There was so much noise, so much stress. I did not sleep at all at night. It was very scary.

 

Camp
Habiba and her children have been moved to a new camp where they have access to a library

 

But now we have moved camps, things are more calm. This camp is very good – it is quiet and I can come to the library. It is a very good library.

 

Choosing books to read
Habiba has come to the library to choose books for her son and herself

 

Today I have borrowed two books – one for my son who is five years old. It is about Poppy Cat. The story is good for my son. I think for my children storybooks and alphabet books are good. These will help them learn English.

 

Reading together in the library
Habiba believes it is important to read books in English with her son as it will help him learn the language

 

The other book I have borrowed is for me. It is a book of poetry – it’s a great book. These poems are very nice! I think the books are very good for me – for my heart. Books are very good for relaxation.

When I lived in Afghanistan I had so many books in my library! I had many cookbooks. You should send some cookbooks! I love cooking. I would like to learn to cook new things.

I have a lot of hope for my children’s future – that there will be no war. Just peace.”

 

Children's Corner a MYSA Library

January Book of the Month

Our first Book of the Month for 2020 is . . .

The Voyage
The Voyage by Robert Vescio and Andrea Edmonds

This picture book brings to life a family’s experience as they flee conflict and set out on a journey to find safety.

Memories

Told using just one word per spread, from ‘chaos’ and ‘escape’ to ‘safe’ and ‘new’ the beautiful illustrations allow the reader to create their own background story and bring to life what the characters are thinking, feeling and saying.

Companion

This book, along with many other titles, will soon be on its way to our partner Merimna in Greece which is expanding its work to establish two libraries, one in Athens and one in Thessaloniki, to support refugee camps in the two cities.

Teams from Merimna will also take books into the camps and use them in activities for parents and children focussing on education, psychosocial support and improving cognitive behaviour.

'Safe'

Books like The Voyage will be particularly useful for activities like this. The sparse text and evocative illustrations provide space and inspiration for discussions which can help children and families better process the difficult journeys they have experienced.

 

Echo refugee library

Refugee voices: Shayan

Iranian refugee Shayan lives in Athens. He dreams of one day working in the music industry and currently tours around local refugee camps with NGO Echo‘s mobile library, teaching music to children. But it was also his love for music that forced him to leave Iran.

Here Shayan shares his story and how books are helping him and others like him to keep learning and hoping for a better future.

 

Shayan

My name is Shayan – I’m from Iran and I’ve come to Europe, so I’m happy!

I left Iran because I loved metal music. I’m a musician, I play guitar. I started a metal band with my friends – but this was illegal. In Iran they think metal music is from Satan. Because of my t-shirt, a Marilyn Manson t-shirt, I went to the jail. Can you believe it?

 

Reading in the mobile library
Echo’s mobile library that Shayan tours camps and community centres with

There was no hope for me in Iran, I would have died there. I couldn’t stay.

I left three years ago. I was in Turkey for almost a year and then I came to Chios. I didn’t come directly to Athens. I came by boat from Turkey to Chios.

I tried to cross the border into Turkey three times but they caught us and sent us back. But the third time I crossed on a horse over the mountain! Then on the boat from Turkey I had to be brave – I didn’t know how to swim and didn’t have a life jacket but I had to cross on the boat.

I have a dream to study music, work in music, maybe backstage. I think you should know why you are born.

I love to read history books because history teaches us about the future – how to make less mistakes in the future.

I like to read in English and Greek. I use dictionaries for checking new words.

If you are in a camp you are penned in. You have to apply for asylum when you arrive and until you have your application accepted you have to stay. The situation is terrible. In the summer, inside the heat is like a microwave. There are a lot of criminals there too. I had to stay in the camp for nine months. It was a long time.

If you are in the camp it can be easy to get depressed.

But books can give refugees more passion and widen their horizons.

Some book could be near to your experience, so when you’re reading you can say ‘ok, this guy was like me! He was so helpless, poor but he succeeded. He’s done it. So why cannot I do it too?’

 

Reading book

Refugee voices: Hassan

Hassan* from Chad lives in Katsikas refugee camp just outside the city of Ioannina in northern Greece. He is a nurse by profession and hopes to become a doctor one day. He reads books you help to send to NGO Soup and Socks’ centre to keep his knowledge up-to-date.

 

Katsikas camp
Katsikas Refugee Settlement in northern Greece

 

I am from Chad. I had a big problem in Chad. It was very bad. If I could have stayed I would have – but I could not. Now I live here without my family, my friends, without everything. It is difficult.

I was a nurse in Chad. And now, I am here and I have time but I don’t want to spend my time without doing anything. I want to add to my knowledge in the sciences. That is why I came to the library to borrow some books – like books for nurses.

Refugee with book
Hassan reads medical books at Soup and Socks’ library to keep his knowledge up-to-date

So this library is a very very good thing for me. The books for science and medicine – they are so good. Now I am so busy with the library, I do not even go on the internet!

Books are important for refugees.

It is true that the situation is terrible, but most people would like to learn still. They are always looking for libraries, looking for places where they can find the opportunity to learn.

But there are not many places like this library. I hope to read a lot of different books.

In the future I want to be a doctor! I hope to do my masters – and after that become a doctor. That is my dream. And that is why I have chosen this book. It will help my knowledge go up.

*Hassan’s name has been changed.

 

Zizzis teaching

Refugee voices: Zizzis

Zizzis works as an English teacher in Mosaik’s support centre on the Greek island of Lesvos.

Lesvos is home to approximately 8,000 displaced people who remain here as they wait for their asylum requests to be processed. Much humanitarian aid in Lesvos focuses on basic needs such as food, shelter and clothes but there is little for people to stimulate their minds and break the tedium.

Mosaik therefore exists to provide a space away from the camp and give access to classes, workshops other events.

Zizzis tells us more about his work and how he believes education and access to books can enable people to keep learning and living while they wait.

 

Zizzis teaching
Zizzis uses books you help to send to support the lessons he teaches

I’m from Athens but I lived in Paris for 10 years. I decided to move back to Greece with my family and chose to come to Lesvos. I came when the refugee crisis started in 2015. Given that the economic situation on the island was difficult, it seemed logical to work with an NGO.

I find working with refugees really interesting – I get to know people from around the world. It is incredible. In the three years I have worked with refuges I’ve met people from every corner of the world – and not only refugees! Also NGO people come and go.

Mosaic library
Mosaik’s library is filled with books you help to send!

None of our students stay here for very long. Lesvos is a transit centre so we don’t have the same students for more than six or eight months. And yet when they leave they are completely different.

Initially, it is not easy for them. They want to leave Moria [the refugee reception centre of Lesvos which they cannot leave until they have been granted asylum]. But bit by bit they get to know us, they get used to Mosaik and they relax.

They come to the lessons, the workshops and the activities and all of a sudden you realise that these people are absorbing enormous amounts of information and knowledge. Coming here, they find a community and some kind of normality. They get the feeling that they belong somewhere again.

Before we had books from Book Aid International we were struggling with photocopies – we didn’t have any materials.

We didn’t have the money. I bought my own books initially. But after the donation from Book Aid International I had a lot of materials in the library that I can use in my classes. It’s much easier for me to teach English now.

Once the primary needs of food and shelter and food for displaced people are met you need more.

You need something to remind you that you are a still a human being. So I think that books and literature are essential for refugees.

It helps them remember that they are free human beings with independent personalities.

 

Marwan reading

Refugee voices: Marwan

Marwan fled the war in Syria and after a long journey found shelter on the Greek island of Lesvos. He now lives in Katsikas camp in northern Greece.

Here he tells us more about his experiences and how books are among the most important things all people need, regardless of their situation.

 

Soup and Socks
Soup and Socks where Marwan reads books

My name is Marwan. I am from Aleppo in Syria.

I left because of the war. I tried to stay for so long but in the end I had to say no. It was not possible to stay.

It took me six weeks to get to Greece.  It makes me weak to tell the story so I do not want to say any more about that.

I spent five months in Moira camp on Lesvos and now I have been here for one month so far. I feel a little homesick for Moira – I have a lot of friends there. The place is bad but the people are good.

Language lesson
Marwan uses books to support his English language learning

Now I am here, some people are teaching me English. That is good.

My teacher has given me this book – The Old Man and the Sea – to practise my English.

I like science. We should have science books. Also the psychology books. The people must know more about psychology.

Reading science books
Marwan enjoys reading science books in particular

Reading is important because you get education from reading. For me, when I read a story I have some new wisdom. So when you read science books you have more and more education.

The first things people need are the basic things – accommodation and food and clothes. But then the second things, like books, are also very important.

I cannot work now which is not good, so we need the books so we can have education. I need to learn new words – learn more and more – and the knowledge comes from the books.

I think everyone needs books. We have time – I have time – and I must read. Reading means education. And the education is important for us.

Marwan attends English classes at Soup and Socks’s centre near Katsikas camp where he also borrows books to read for pleasure and to keep learning – especially about science.

 

Children's Corner a MYSA Library

November Book of the Month

Our Book of the Month for November is this title from the Arabic Club for Kids:

 

Arabic Club for Kids book

 

The Arabic Club for Kids is a bright, fun series of books for young learners of Arabic, designed to nurture confidence and motivation in reading.

They have been created by experienced Arabic teachers and authors and titles are grouped into colour bands for different reading abilities.

These books cover a wide range of stories and topics in both fiction and non-fiction and are brought to life by bright eye-catching photos and illustrations. They are designed for guided reading but can also be used for class story time or to read independently.

 

Arabic Club for Kids book

 

Oxford University Press have donated huge numbers of books in this series and copies have been sent to our partners working with displaced people in Greece, Lebanon and Jordan as well as our partners in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

For children uprooted from their homes through conflict and living in new, unfamiliar countries, reading books in their own language can provide a sanctuary and the opportunity to relax in otherwise stressful situations. Books for young readers like this will also enable children to develop their reading skills, ensuring their education continues in spite of being far from home.

 

Habiba and her son read together

Finding peace in books

Habiba and her two children were forced to flee conflict in Afghanistan after her husband was killed.  After a long and perilous journey, they arrived on the island of Lesvos in Greece four months ago. She and her children have since been moved to a camp outside the city of Ioannis in northern Greece where they have access to a library filled with books you have helped to send.

Here, Habiba shares her experiences and tells us of the positive difference that books are making for her and her children as they seek to rebuild their lives.

 

Habiba
Habiba

 

I have come from Afghanistan and I have two children. My son is five and my daughter is 10.

In my country there was war. My husband was not a solider. He went out and he did not come back. Some people killed him. And for my son – it was dangerous. People wanted to take him. So I had to leave, I had to find a safe place for the children.

I travelled through my country to Iran then to here. It was very hard to come so far and travel alone with two children.

We arrived in Greece four months ago. We stayed in Moira [the refugee reception centre on the island of Lesvos] for three months. It was very bad – all the people so close together. There was so much noise, so much stress. I did not sleep at all at night. It was very scary.

 

Camp
Habiba and her children have been moved to a new camp where they have access to a library

 

But now we have moved camps, things are more calm. This camp is very good – it is quiet and I can come to the library. It is a very good library.

 

Choosing books to read
Habiba has come to the library to choose books for her son and herself

 

Today I have borrowed two books – one for my son who is five years old. It is about Poppy Cat. The story is good for my son. I think for my children story books and alphabet books are good. These will help them learn English.

 

Reading together in the library
Habiba believes it is important to read books in English with her son as it will help him learn the language

 

The other book I have borrowed is for me. It is a book of poetry – it’s a great book. These poems are very nice! I think the books are very good for me – for my heart. Books are very good for relaxation.

When I lived in Afghanistan I had so many books in my library! I had many cook books. You should send some cook books! I love cooking. I would like to learn to cook new things.

I have a lot of hope for my children’s future – that there will be no war. Just peace.

 

Lagam library Kenya

Our top 10 highlights from 2017

Thanks to your support we achieved so much in 2017!

With your help, our books reached readers in TWENTY countries, over 88,000 primary school children are enjoying new books in school thanks to our Inspiring Readers programme, more than 5,000 books reached displaced people in Greece and much more besides.

We couldn’t have done it without you.

Take a look at the ten short clips below for more of our 2017 highlights.

 

Highlight 10

60-year-old Florence in Kenya joined an adult education class and using the books you helped to send, learned to read for the very first time.

Highlight 9

Schools and libraries in the Occupied Palestinian Territories received twice as many books.

Highlight 8

Our amazing donors smashed our Open Doors Children’s Corners appeal’s £600,000 target, giving thousands of children in seven countries vibrant reading spaces to discover books.

Highlight 7

30,000 brand new books reached readers in Rwanda.

Highlight 6

3,806 books were shipped to the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan.

Highlight 5

5,541 books reached displaced people in Greece.

Highlight 4

Books you helped to send are now filling a library in rural Uganda where they are helping children develop a love of reading and farmers to cope with the effects of climate change.

Highlight 3

88,903 primary school children in Cameroon, Kenya and Malawi now have brand new books in their classrooms thanks to our Inspiring Readers programme.

Highlight 2

Children in Nairobi’s slums are now enjoying Book Havens in three local libraries.

Highlight 1

Thanks to your support, we sent books to 20 countries, which will reach over 20 million readers!

Thank you for your support in 2017. Here’s to getting even more books to the people who need them the most in 2018!

For more information about the work you supported in 2017, take a look at the links below.

 

Pupils at Korieama Primary School

2017 year in review: 20 countries in just twelve months

As 2017 draws to a close, we are looking back over the last twelve months and forward to 2018. In this blog, our Chief Executive Alison Tweed reflects on the highlights from 2017 and gives us a preview of the year ahead.

This has been a year of change for our team at Book Aid International as we focused on putting our Vision 2020: Where Books Change Lives strategy into action. Launched in March, our new strategy commits us to ensuring that the books we send reach those who face the greatest barriers to accessing books.

 

Boys reading
Two friends share a book at Battir Library in the West Bank

 

To begin making that vision a reality, we focused on establishing partnerships in new countries where people lack the books they need, as well as continuing to support all our more longstanding library and education partnerships.

The books we provided reached people in some of the most difficult to reach places in the world who are determined to keep reading in the face of instability and uncertainty about the future. We sent books to universities in Somalia, to transit camps in Greece, to schools for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and to the world’s youngest nation which continues to be gripped by conflict, South Sudan.

 

Pacifique leads a reading activity
Taking part in a reading activity at Esperance Community Centre’s library in Rwanda

 

We also doubled the number of books provided to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, sent books to the Caribbean island of Antigua to support people displaced from Barbuda and Dominica by Hurricane Irma and began sending books to Liberia, Rwanda, Ghana and The Gambia.

Inspiring Readers, Book Havens and more

In March of this year our flagship Inspiring Readers programme won the prestigious 2017 London Book Fair International Excellence Award in the category of Educational Initiatives. It was a fantastic boost for the programme which aims to bring books into the classrooms of 250,000 African primary school pupils by 2020.

 

Moi Primary readers
Pupils enjoy reading in class at Inspiring Readers school Moi Primary in Kenya

 

In 2017, we continued to expand the programme and today almost 89,000 pupils in Kenya, Cameroon and Malawi have books in their classrooms and trained teachers to help them discover how reading supports their learning.

Highlights of the year for me also included:

 

  • Helping reading and learning to flourish in Nairobi’s Mathare slum through our Book Havens project

 

Jason
Young reader Jason shows us his favourite place to read in his new Book Haven

 

  • Giving secondary school pupils in Zambia new resources to study and succeed in their exams by creating Study Hubs

 

Secondary school pupils using their study hub in Zambia
Secondary school pupils using books in their Study Hub at Choma Library

 

 

The people we reached

When I look back on 2017, more than anything I will remember the people who told us how the books we send are helping them to change their own lives.

I was particularly inspired by the words of 17 year old Lydia in Uganda who reminds us how determined people around the world are to read:

My dad always says ‘You shouldn’t go there, collecting books from there. Those books don’t help you.’ He doesn’t know how they help me. But my mum knows. She helps me go out to the library and get the books. I have already read all the fiction in the library – there are not enough now! We need more so we can keep learning. For me, I am going to be a writer, so I must keep reading!

[read more]

Lydia is just one of the estimated 24 million people who read the books we provide in any one year. We could not reach a single one of those readers without the new books that are so generously donated by publishers, the funds we receive from individuals, trusts and companies and the hard work of our volunteers. We would like to extend a very warm thank you to all of our supporters for all that you do.

Looking forward to 2018

In 2017 we sent over 930,000 books to a wide range of new and established partners.

In 2018 we are aiming to send up to 1.2 million books and we are expanding our warehouse operations in Camberwell to help us do just that.

 

Loading a shipment
Loading a shipment at our warehouse in London

 

We will also continue to implement our Inspiring Readers, Book Havens and Study Hub projects and we are currently exploring the next steps for our work providing e-books alongside print books for children.

We are very much looking forward to a year of new partnerships and new opportunities to reach those who need books most and we hope that you will join us as we continue to work toward a world where everyone has access to books that will enrich, improve and change their lives.