Tag Archives: Refugee Week

Koffi and Cisco stamping books

London based refugees volunteer to help send books to refugees in Jordan

On Tuesday June 18th two refugees from the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants joined forces with UK charity Book Aid International, volunteering their time to stamp over 500 children’s books in Arabic to Syrian refugees sheltering in Jordan and over 100 additional books written by best-selling authors Sita Brahmachari and Onjali Q. Raúf to English speaking refugees in Africa.

Both have found that books and art have provided a positive outlet and helped them cope with the experience of displacement and were very pleased to be helping other displaced people access books.

Koffi is from Ivory Coast. He fled violence around the elections which took place in the country in 2010 and subsequent conflict in 2011. He spoke of the importance of access to book and learning saying:

“When you are in the camp, you left your homeland, your culture, so many things. It’s very traumatic. When you get a book, it can be a platform for you to connect to what you have left. And from this platform, you can get through. You can have some hope, some joy.”

Cisco also believes that people who have fled home must have the opportunity to read. He is from The Cameroon and was forced to leave after being part of a demonstration:

“When you have a book with you, it pushes the boundaries. The camp is as a prison – we cannot go out. So when you have a book, it gives you something to imagine. As you are reading, you are free and you don’t see those boundaries anymore. You are free in your mind.”

An estimated 1.3 million refugees live in Jordan and the Arabic books which Koffi and Cisco have stamped have been specially selected to support children’s reading and learning through NGO We Love Reading. The group works to instil a love of reading through read-aloud activities with trained volunteers. We Love Reading supports refugees in Jordan as part of its work and has so far served over 400,000 displaced children.

Sita Brahmachari’s books all tell empowering stories of people who have been displaced, providing hope for the future. They will reach South Sudanese refugees sheltering in Kenya and Uganda – including the world’s biggest refugee settlement, Bidi Bidi in Uganda.

Sita spoke of her feelings about knowing that the books she has written will reach refugees in Africa, saying: “I have written about many different aspects of refugee experience and the way in which people navigate their way through different societies. That books I’ve written may reach one of the children I have had in mind as I’ve written gives me great joy. I write for all children and hope my stories in these children’s hands may offer young readers a sense that their lives may progress…. so that they can dream, believe and imagine a kinder more humane and connected world.”

Book Aid International works for a world where no one is without the books that will enrich, improve and change their lives. The charity knows that books are at their most precious for those facing war and displacement.

Last year through the generosity of players of People’s Postcode Lottery, it made brand new, publisher donated books available to over 500,000 refugees in 16 refugee camps around the world. The Islington Centre for Refuges and Migrants has also been supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, who have helped fund the centre’s English as a Second Language and ICT courses.

Book Aid International warmly thanks Koffi and Cisco for their time, the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants for their inspiring work and Orion Children’s Books, Otter Barry Books and Barrington Stoke for generously donating Sita’s books.


For photos or to find out more please email emma.taylor@bookaid.org or call 020 7326 5800.

About Book Aid International

Book Aid International is the UK’s leading international book donation and library development charity. Every year, the charity sends around one million brand new books to people around the world who would otherwise have very few opportunities to access books and read.

The books are read by people in all walks of life in thousands of libraries, schools, universities, hospitals and refugee camps. All of the books the charity sends are donated by UK publishers.

Book Aid International works with an extensive network of libraries, schools, hospitals, NGOs and other partners to ensure that the books it sends reach as many people as possible. The charity estimates that the books it provides reach 28 million people every year. In 2018, Book Aid International sent books to 16 refugee camps. www.bookaid.org

About the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants

The Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants works to create a strong, positive, community for people who have been displaced from their countries of origin due to persecution, war, and poverty. The charity works to create a sense of belonging and comfort for those who have left their homes, providing practical tools to help displaced people to rebuild their lives and linking asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants with local people to build a stronger community for everyone.

The Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants currently supports around 180 asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants each year. It’s clients are among the most disadvantaged, isolated and vulnerable people in London. Having fled persecution, human rights abuses, they are at risk of destitution, detention, and removal to the situation they fled.

About Sita Brahmachari

Sita Brahmachari won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize with her debut Artichoke Hearts and is one of the most interesting and important voices in children’s books today. Her latest novel, Tender Earth, is the UK IBBY Honour 2018 Nominee. She was the 2015 Booktrust’s Writer in Residence and is the current Writer in Residence at Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants. Sita is also an Amnesty International ambassador. She lives in London with her family.

About Onjali Q. Raúf

Onjali Q. Raúf is the founder of Making Herstory, an organisation mobilising men, women and children from all walks of life to tackle the abuse and trafficking of women and girls in the UK and beyond. In her spare time she delivers emergency aid convoys for refugee families surviving in Calais and Dunkirk, and supports interfaith projects. She specialised in Women’s Studies at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and Oxford University. The Boy at the Back of the Class is her first novel. It is the winner of the Blue Peter Book Award 2019 and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019.

About People’s Postcode Lottery

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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.


Young readers

New project in Kakuma Refugee Camp to support education of 17,000 children

It’s Refugee Week and we are delighted to announce the launch of a brand new project in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya: Reading for All, in partnership with Lutheran World Federation and Windle Trust International – Kenya.

The project aims to support the education of at least 17,000 children and young people who attend school in the camp by providing Classroom Book Boxes filled with brand new books and training teachers in how to bring those books to life and encourage reading.


Kakuma classroom
Young learners in Kakuma Refugee Camp will soon be enjoying new books from their Classroom Book Boxes

185,859 people live in Kakuma refugee camp in Northern Kenya, 36,596 of whom are under the age of 18. They cannot leave the camp without special permission, so their opportunities to learn and work towards a more secure future are severely limited. In the camp, schools are hugely overcrowded and have very few books. Over 100 learners often share a single teacher and only a few tattered textbooks.


Kakuma school library
Books will also be used to replenish the book stores of secondary schools in the camp

The project is now underway in Kakuma, with teachers from 26 primary school and early childhood centres taking part in a three day training this week. A further training of 60 secondary school teachers will take place in September.

We look forward to bringing you more updates about the project over the coming months.

We would like to say a special thank you to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for their support of Reading for All: Kakuma and making it possible for us to bring books to 17,000 young refugees.

Reading for all: Kakuma is just one part of our work with refugees around the world. Find out more using the links below.

Twenty more individuals are forcibly displaced every minute and each of them needs access to books which can help them continue an interrupted education, escape the day to day challenges of camp life and imagine a brighter future.


Children participate in a reading activity in Alrowwad's library in Aida Camp

MEDIA RELEASE: Friends of Alrowwad UK teams up with Book Aid International to support refugee camp libraries


To mark Refugee Week, UK Friends of Aida Refugee Camp’s Alrowwad Centre in West Bank stamped hundreds of books at Book Aid International’s warehouse to go on the charity’s forthcoming shipment to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

Book Aid International has been sending books to OPT since 1988 and in 2016 the charity sent 15,000 books to public libraries, libraries in refugee camps, schools and universities there. Of these, hundreds of picture books and reading books for children and young people supported libraries in four refugee camps in West Bank, including Aida Camp.

Aida Refugee Camp was established in 1950 to house people who were displaced after Israel declared independence in 1948. The camp is severely overcrowded: it houses over 5,500 refugees in an area less than one third of a square mile. Its proximity to the separation wall means the camp’s residents experience regular clashes with the Israeli Security Forces. These clashes are particularly upsetting for the camp’s children.

Alrowwad Centre offers children in Aida Camp one of few safe places to go outside their homes. In addition to a library stocked with Book Aid International books and offering a busy programme of activities, the centre also runs drama, dance and film workshops to promote belonging, creativity and self-expression. Together, the library and these activities help camp residents deal with the challenges of camp life.

Book Aid International Chief Executive Alison Tweed said “This Refugee Week we are proud to support displaced people around the world. Displaced people, wherever they may find themselves, need access to books so that they can continue their education and keep reading. We were very pleased to welcome Friends of Alrowwad UK to our warehouse yesterday. We have seen first-hand the excellent work Alrowwad does and how their team uses the books we send to support the education of children in the camp and make books available to all.”

Melissa Scott of Friends of Alrowwad UK said “It has been a pleasure to stamp books that are destined for Alrowwad and other libraries in Palestine. The bright, vibrant books will be loved by the children who are so keen to further their education which fits the ethos of Alrowwad Centre. The centre provides a safe haven for children in Aida Camp in which to learn, grow and improve their life chances and the library is a big part of that.”

In addition to supporting refugees in OPT, Book Aid International also supports libraries in two of the world’s largest refugee camps, Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya and provides books to Souda Camp in Chios, Greece. The charity is seeking to expand its work providing books to displaced people, people living in fragile states and conflict-affected communities over the next three years and hopes to send around 25,000 books to OPT in 2017.




For further information and comment please contact Jenny Hayes, Communications Executive at Book Aid International.

e: jenny.hayes@bookaid.org

t: 020 7326 5801

About Book Aid International

Book Aid International is the UK’s leading international book donation and library development charity. Every year, the charity ships around one million books to thousands of libraries in communities where people have very few opportunities to access books.

Book Aid International works with an extensive network of libraries, schools, hospitals, NGOs and other partners to ensure that the books it sends reach those who are most in need. In addition, it also run library development projects which build the capacity of librarians to support readers and communities.

The charity only sends books at the request of its library partners. These books are carefully selected by our UK team led by professional librarians to ensure that they the needs of local communities.

All of the books sent by Book Aid International are donated by the UK book trade so they are all new.

Visit www.bookaid.org for more information or join the conversation on twitter: @book_aid


About Alrowwad Centre for Culture and Arts

Alrowwad is a not-for profit NGO which provides artistic, cultural and theatre training for children in Aida Camp, Bethlehem. Alrowwad works in the spirit of social entrepreneurship to deepen the notion of belonging, volunteering, creativity and self-expression for children, youth and women, regardless of origin or religion. Arowwad also provides vocational training for job creation and building peace within individuals to be able to build it among Palestinians and the world.

Find out more here http://www.alrowwad.org/en/ or find Friends of Alrowwad UK on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofAlrowwadUK/