Tag Archives: refugee camps

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.



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?’


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.


Kakuma learners

A book for a book: bringing more books to children in refugee camps in Kenya

At Book Aid International, we believe all children should have the opportunity to read, to enjoy new, appealing and relevant books regardless of their situation. There is one book which we are particularly excited about at the moment and that is The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon which is published by Orion Children’s Books today.


The Bone Sparrow


The novel follows a 10-year-old boy called Subhi who has lived his whole life in a refugee detention centre. Orion Children’s Books will donate a book from their list to us for every copy of The Bone Sparrow sold. We will send these books to a refugee camp library in Kenya, to bring the joy of books and reading to children like Subhi.

“We are proud to be partnering with Orion Children’s Books, one of our long-term publisher supporters, on this important campaign. We have supported libraries in refugee camps in Kenya for many years and for many of the camps’ inhabitants, these libraries represent the only chance to read, to learn and to progress in education.“ – Alison Tweed, Director, Book Aid International.




The books which Orion Children’s Books donate will be sent to our partner Windle Trust which provides libraries, education facilities and programmes for people in Kenya’s Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. Dadaab refugee camp in Garissa Province is estimated to be the largest refugee camp in the world, with a population of around 320,000 people. Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana Province has an estimated population of around 180,000 people.

We have supported Windle Trust’s work in these camps with book donations since 2000. Many people in the camps have no access to books anywhere else and Windle Trust’s facilities provide a rare, reliable and accessible source of reading and learning materials. We are delighted to have this opportunity to send even more inspiring, high quality books for children in these camps to enjoy, thanks to Orion Children’s Books and Zana Fraillon.

Zana Fraillon felt compelled to write this novel because she could not ignore the millions of people who were being forcibly displaced and the millions of children missing out on a childhood. “The Bone Sparrow was written so we remember the people behind the statistics.”

Thanks to Orion Children’s Books and Zana Fraillon, the children of Kakuma and Dadaab will have access to some fantastic children’s books and the chance to experience the joy of reading, even within the camps’ walls.

Find out more about The Bone Sparrow here.


Dedame school

Literacy: a life-changing chance for children in Zambia

Our partner Zambia Open Community Schools (ZOCS) provides quality schooling and education for children  who cannot attend government schools. Often, children in Zambia miss out on their opportunity to attend government school, either because the nearest school is too far away or because their families cannot afford school uniforms or exercise books. We partner with them in this work by donating brand new books to ensure community schools have libraries that are well stocked with new and relevant books. Cleo Muma, Programme and Advocacy Manager at ZOCS tells us how the books are used in the schools and the difference they make to the students.

Kububa Community School is located in Mayukwayukwa Refugee Camp in Kaoma District in the Western Province of Zambia. The school has a total of 544 learners, both boys and girls. The school has 12 untrained Community School teachers, four classrooms and currently caters for Early Childhood Education through to grade 7.

In Zambia, English is taken as a subject in early grades and young children are taught in their local language, which in this area is Lozi. From Grade 5 onwards though, English becomes the language of instruction in almost all subjects so it’s important that learners are slowly introduced to English during their education up to this point. Unless this happens, the transition to English as the language of instruction can be very challenging and it’s a time when many children drop out of school.

Until recently, Kububa Community School lacked the appropriate learning materials to introduce children in early grades to English and as a result learners had little understanding of English when they had to make the full transition in Grade 5.

In 2015, Kububa Community School’s dream of improving their literacy levels came to reality when Zambia Open Community Schools (ZOCS) visited the school and distributed books from Book Aid International. The books are colourful, simple phonics books, designed to help young readers learn the basics of spelling and building words in English. By using these simple books, children were able to identify, sound out, read and write simple words in English after just a term in school.

ZOCS - children reading

“Phonics provides the key that unlocks the mystery of reading and education is the greatest equaliser in life” says Dorcus, who is one of the children at Kububa Community School.

Teachers are now encouraging children to apply themselves to their reading. They give prizes such as sweets or even applause from the rest of the class for children who are making the most effort to improve in their reading.

ZOCS - books handed out

“Children need to have a good grasp of phonics in order to learn to read and write. They need to know their letter sounds and how to segment and blend. Phonics teaching has proved to be easier than the schemes we were using before. We thank Book Aid International and ZOCS who have deliberately chosen to complement Government efforts of improving literacy levels in all communities.” Mr. Chikwekwe, Refugee Camp Co-ordinator.

Kububa Community School students are now some of the most confident, vibrant and enthusiastic children in the district and their literacy rates have improved greatly.

We are proud to be able to support ZOCS in their important work to bring education to vulnerable children in Zambia. Last year we sent 28,505 new books to ZOCS for use in schools. You can find out more about our work with ZOCS in this short film or by reading Cleo’s story of her work with the organisation.