Tag Archives: refugees

Mayol and Salid

Mayol’s story

Mayol, 22, fled his village in South Sudan in 2013 to escape civil war. He now lives in Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya, one of the largest refugee camps in the world.

Mayol attends Kakuma Secondary School where, together with a friend, he runs the school library, filled with books from Book Aid International. As a refugee, Mayol cannot attend school outside the camp or move beyond the immediate town of Kakuma so his opportunities are limited. He sees education and books as a means to change his life for the better and one day return to South Sudan. This is his story:

 

Mayol
Mayol

 

“I was born in South Sudan in 1995, but there was a war in 2005 and my father was killed. After that, I lived with my mother but in March 2013, war arrived again in our village at night. We heard the sound of the bullets buzzing around people and killing was everywhere. So I ran away and my mum ran too.

I spent two days walking in the forest alone. I met a Sudanese soldier and he said ‘Where are you going?’ and I said ‘I don’t know where I am going. I just ran and lost my mum.’ So he took me to the UN and they brought me here, to Kakuma Refugee Camp. Now I am a refugee.  Up to now, my mum doesn’t know where I am. I don’t know, maybe she was killed. She was running with the small kids – but I don’t know what happened to them.

 

A typical street in Kakuma

 

The life here in Kakuma is very hard – the camp is very overpopulated and we only receive three kilos of rations a month, but we just remain here in the camp because we have nowhere to go and we have no right to move away. We appreciate the UN agency because it has protected our lives. If it was not there, maybe we could have been killed. So because of this kindness we are here.

 

Kakuma Secondary School
Mayol (left) and Salid (right) outside their school

 

But I do not have very many opportunities unless I do my best, finish school and perform very well – that’s when you find a job and you earn your living yourself.  Here in the camp there are so many challenges that are facing us – especially on the topic of the books. One textbook is given to 10 students – and my school is comprised of 3,000 students.

 

Mayol and Salid
Salid (left) and Mayol (right) look through books outside their school library

 

Myself and my friend Salid have been selected to be in charge of the library here at our school. The library is too small for all the pupils to use the books at one time, so we give out the books and after one week we collect them and give them to another class. The books that we have in the library – they’re good but we need more! Especially revision books and commercial books so that you can make a business – and novels! There are only a few and when we give them out, they are not enough, they are so useful to have. To learn English, students need to read enough books – a lot of novels. So that when he reads novels widely, he can improve his English grammar – things will be simple.

 

Reading outside the library
Studying outside with library books

 

If we don’t have books in school it will bring challenges. Some of the books, like novels, give us the knowledge to improve our English, while others – such as the revision books – give us a guideline to understand things easily. Therefore when we don’t have such books, it brings weakness to ourselves. If we end up with a poor grade it will affect us for the rest of our lives. Wherever you go, you will not get a job because you have weak grades. You will never work in the office. When you have enough revision books and novels, you can at least try your best to utilise them so you can perform well in all your subjects.

The thing that makes me stay here and keep going is that I believe in myself. If God keeps me alive I can study well and do the best that I can to change my life. Now I have the opportunity to study for free, so I need to utilise this chance that God gave me so that I can change this life and so that when I go back to Sudan, I can bring peace. I must work hard so that I can fulfil that promise that I made to Sudan.”

We are proud to have provided many of the books that fill Mayol’s school library with the support of People’s Postcode Lottery. We thank players for their ongoing support in helping us reach people with the books they need to change their lives. 

 

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.”

 

Mayol and Salid

Remembering our Patron – using books to get back home

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.

Mayol, 22, fled his village in South Sudan in 2013 to escape civil war. He now lives in Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya, one of the largest refugee camps in the world. He attends Kakuma Secondary School where, together with a friend, he runs the school library, filled with books from Book Aid International. Mayol sees education and books as a means to change his life for the better and one day return to South Sudan. This is his story:

 

Mayol
Mayol

 

“I was born in South Sudan in 1995, but there was a war in 2005 and my father was killed. After that, I lived with my mother but in March 2013, war arrived again in our village at night. We heard the sound of the bullets buzzing around people and killing was everywhere. So I ran away and my mum ran too.

I spent two days walking in the forest alone. I met a Sudanese soldier and he said ‘Where are you going?’ and I said ‘I don’t know where I am going. I just ran and lost my mum.’ So he took me to the UN and they brought me here, to Kakuma Refugee Camp. Now I am a refugee.  Up to now, my mum doesn’t know where I am. I don’t know, maybe she was killed. She was running with the small kids – but I don’t know what happened to them.

 

A typical street in Kakuma

 

The life here in Kakuma is very hard – the camp is very overpopulated and we only receive three kilos of rations a month, but we just remain here in the camp because we have nowhere to go and we have no right to move away. We appreciate the UN agency because it has protected our lives. If it was not there, maybe we could have been killed. So because of this kindness we are here.

 

Kakuma Secondary School
Mayol (left) and Salid (right) outside their school

 

But I do not have very many opportunities unless I do my best, finish school and perform very well – that’s when you find a job and you earn your living yourself.  Here in the camp there are so many challenges that are facing us – especially on the topic of the books. One textbook is given to 10 students – and my school is comprised of 3,000 students.

 

Mayol and Salid
Salid (left) and Mayol (right) look through books outside their school library

 

Myself and my friend Salid have been selected to be in charge of the library here at our school. The library is too small for all the pupils to use the books at one time, so we give out the books and after one week we collect them and give them to another class. The books that we have in the library – they’re good but we need more! Especially revision books and commercial books so that you can make a business – and novels! There are only a few and when we give them out, they are not enough, they are so useful to have. To learn English, students need to read enough books – a lot of novels. So that when he reads novels widely, he can improve his English grammar – things will be simple.

 

Reading outside the library
Studying outside with library books

 

If we don’t have books in school it will bring challenges. Some of the books, like novels, give us the knowledge to improve our English, while others – such as the revision books – give us a guideline to understand things easily. Therefore when we don’t have such books, it brings weakness to ourselves. If we end up with a poor grade it will affect us for the rest of our lives. Wherever you go, you will not get a job because you have weak grades. You will never work in the office. When you have enough revision books and novels, you can at least try your best to utilise them so you can perform well in all your subjects.

The thing that makes me stay here and keep going is that I believe in myself.

If God keeps me alive I can study well and do the best that I can to change my life. Now I have the opportunity to study for free, so I need to utilise this chance that God gave me so that I can change this life and so that when I go back to Sudan, I can bring peace. I must work hard so that I can fulfil that promise that I made to Sudan.

We are proud to have provided many of the books that fill Mayol’s school library via our partner Windle Trust Kenya. We believe that everyone should have access to books that will enrich, improve and change their lives, whatever their circumstances. 

 

“These books empowered me”

Uganda, with more than 1.4 million refugees and asylum seekers, is the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa. Most refugees come from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Jesuit Refugee Service in Uganda offers language classes and other educational and recreational initiatives to refugees, including providing lessons on income-generation, filling the huge gaps in secondary education and piloting mental health support in primary and secondary schools.

We heard from two users of Jesuit Refugee Service in Uganda, who spoke about how the books you help to send have impacted their lives. 

17-year-old Pascal Karhanu is now a student at the Jesuit Refugee Service

“I am Pascal Karhanu and I am a 17-year-old refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I am an orphan with my brothers, sisters and my sister in law. We left our country because of insecurity.

I am a student from Jesuit Refugee Service and I have used the books donated by Book Aid International for intellectual reading and revising – we are developing our minds. Each book has a different topic. Some are about culture, others about science. The books have helped me to have another point of view of seeing things. I have learned more about other culture and I have got a lot of things from them. For sure I am not the same than I was before I read the books. Keep sending books because there are many people who need them.

I am not the same than I was before I read the books.

If Book Aid International had never sent the books I could have missed a lot of things that I’ve read. I have enjoyed each time when I have read those books, they’ve helped me and given me the desire to keep on reading.”

Rheman Mutoke is also a student at the Jesuit Refugee Service

“Being a refugee is something I have never expected, but what brought me here was a question of the safety of my life. I realised my life was in danger, that’s why I came here as a refugee.

We face many challenges with this new life. First of all the language was an obstacle to integrating in Uganda.

Personally, I would like to thank Book Aid International for thinking about us by giving these books, they’ve helped us a lot. I am truly enjoying them and I have read and discovered many things, I am grateful.

These books empowered me and taught me to think deeply, how to read correctly and how to pronounce perfectly. I’ve found many more words, expressions and stories to inspire me. I was joyful when I was reading, it’s a sign of help for me – these books are made for me to forget the side of me that was once sad and shocked [because of] what I am going through.

These books empowered me.

Without these books, I wouldn’t be able to write, read correctly or to speak as fluent as people here. It helped me to [learn] expressions and to take away the stress. Thank you.” – Rheman Mutoke, Refugee student.

Today, more people are displaced by conflict than at any time since the Second World War.

Young people like Rheman and Pascal often miss out on critical stages of their educations, and that lost learning can have life-long implications. That’s why we are determined to provide access to books to those who live with or have fled conflict.

You can read more about our work with refugees here.

 

Secondary school student in Kakuma

Girls succeeding through books and lamps in Kakuma

Our Solar Homework Club project in Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp recently won the Educational Initiatives category of London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards.

London Book Fair award

Getting a good education in Kakuma is hard. Schools are oversubscribed and vastly under-resourced. Teachers are largely students’ only source of information. In addition, without electricity at home, pupils’ time to read, revise and complete homework ends when it gets dark.

The Solar Homework Club project aims to remove some of these barriers to reading and learning by providing solar lamps and new curriculum support books and novels for secondary school students to borrow and use to support their studies after school.

The project is making a particular difference for girls in the camp. Here, female students and staff from Morneau Shepell Secondary School for Girls, Vision Secondary School and Somali Bantu Secondary School tell us more:

 

Kakuma friends
Three friends from Morneau Shepell Secondary School for Girls with big ambitions for the future

 

What are the challenges you face living in Kakuma Refugee Camp?

Yvonne, school librarian: We are not allowed to move outside the refugee camp – you have to seek permission and you should have a very good reason to go. You cannot just say ‘I want to see a new place’ – it is not acceptable since we are refugees. So we are confined in the camp.

Fortune, student: That is why education is important – it can give us the opportunity to leave the camp.

… few families are like our families … They keep their daughters at home to cook and fetch water.

Amia, student: My parents are happy that I am in school. But few families are like our families. They do not know the importance of education. They keep their daughters at home to cook and fetch water.

Martha, student: Many other girls don’t live with parents. They are the mother and father of their siblings. They cook for their brothers and sisters. Many times, they have to do assignments in the morning when they come to school.

Yvonne: We also face security issues like assault. You can’t walk around in the camp. The camp has small roads and lots of bushes where people can hide. So if you are a girl walking around at night, you can be raped.

Kakuma school library
Choosing books from Kakuma Secondary School’s library

Why do you think it is important to have books to support your studies?

Amia: Before the teacher comes to class you have to go through the book and look at the topic. When the teacher comes, you understand more. But if there are no books you cannot get the first-hand information that you want. It can lower your grade.

Yvonne: From my childhood I have seen people succeeding through education – and you get education through books.

Reading science books in the library
Referring to science books at Morneau Shepell Secondary School for Girls in Kakuma

How are the new books helping?

Aisha, student: The books are good for revision as they have clear pictures, e.g. biology and chemistry books.

Nyamal, student: The books have helped. I like reading the books with pictures as it helps me understand better.

Irene, school principal: Before, we never had a single novel in the school. Now, students read a lot during ‘quiet time’ time every day.

The books are good for revision as they have clear pictures.

Flyann, student: The English books help us build vocabulary … I find them very good. I want to be a student of literature.

Amia: The storybooks also have words of encouragement because most of the books talk about students who faced challenges and were successful in the end. They give us motivation!

And how are the solar lamps helping?

Student: The lamps have enabled us to expand prep time at night as well as do early morning reading. The lights also help us to have group discussion in the dormitories after preps.

Kadurenge, school principal: The solar lamps have helped reduce time walking to school and back at night for preps, giving them more time to read at home. Girls are especially grateful to be able to do homework at home every night. There is improvement in performance.

The lamps have enabled us to expand prep time at night as well as do early morning reading.

Zaki male student: Girls with lights read and perform well.

Amia: We have maximum time for revisions and so I get good grades. My parents are very happy about it and know that I will become successful.

Working hard in class at Vision Secondary School

What are your hopes for the future?

Nyaneng, student: I come to school to fulfil my dream of becoming an engineer in order to support my country.

Anisa, student: I want to change my life to a new one through education. I want to become a teacher to teach the  next generation.

Yvonne: I have read about women who have succeeded. I believe I can succeed too.

I have read about women who have succeeded. I believe I can succeed too.

Many thanks to Intouch Global Foundation for their generous support of our Solar Homework Club project.

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.

 

Koffi and Cisco stamping books

The magic of reading

Meet Koffi and Cisco. Originally from the Ivory Coast and Cameroon respectively, they now they live in London, having had to leave their homes and loved ones behind.

They visited our warehouse to help stamp books to send to Syrian refugees in Lebanon. While they were here, they told us about what brought them to the UK, the Islington Centre for Refugees that helped them to settle in and why they think it’s important for displaced people to have access to brand new books.

 

What brought you to the UK?

Koffi:  I’m here due to the social-political situation in my country, the Ivory Coast. It’s been getting worse since 1999. We had big trouble in 2010 after the election, then war in 2011. Next year we are going to election and the political situation is really tense. The population is tense too. We don’t know what will happen in 2020, the fight is tight between politicians. That is reason why I am here.

Cisco: I’m from Cameroon. I came here after I took part in a demonstration and after that I was caught in trouble in my country so I had to fly and I got here.

Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants

How has the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants helped you since you arrived?

Cisco: The centre helped me in so many ways. It helped me in my learning, to improve my English and my communication skills. I have been improving because we have some classes. You can have a one on one tutoring and this is meant to bring you up quickly.

Koffi:  Really, if I want to say how this centre helped me it will take all your time! They built up who I am: my English skills, helped me with health and accommodation issues and reach some educational goals. The centre helped me [during] so many challenges and provided psychological support through activities such as art classes, reading, singing, outings and sport.

This centre is a kind of therapy for us.

Being a refugee is not something you decide.

You have to face so many problems. When we are completely broken, [we] just go to the centre with [a] friend and have fun, sing. [With the centre we can] share everything. It is home for us.

 

Koffi and Cisco
Koffi and Cisco were especially excited to stamp books by author Sita Brahmachari who is Author in Residence at the Islington Centre

 

Do you think it is important to send books to refugee camps for people to read?

Cisco: When you have a book with you and you read that book, it pushes the boundaries. The camp is like a prison, you cannot go out. So when you have a book it gives you something to think, to imagine. As you are reading, you are free;  you don’t see those boundaries. A book gives you a place to improve yourself and your knowledge and your thinking. And this why I think a book is so powerful.

When you are a refugee in a camp you’ve left your homeland, you left your culture, you left your home. You left so many things for another place and it is very, very, very traumatic.

A book can connect you with what you left; your culture, origin, homeland.

You can use it to get through – to have some hope.

Also, books help you to keep your mind engaged and to have some thoughts to improve yourself. Although you may be in a warzone, even in those times there is a need to improve.

Koffi: When you are in a refugee camp, book[s] are a priority to develop your skills, to help you keep connections with things you were forced to leave behind. They also provide an opportunity to build new ambitions, reach new goals and give hope for the future.

It is like kind of magic, reading.

Only reading can bring this kind of feeling.

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.

Ends

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

  • People’s Postcode Lottery manages multiple society lotteries promoted by different charities and good causes. People play with their chosen postcodes for a chance to win cash prizes. A minimum of 32% from each subscription goes directly to charities and good causes across Great Britain and internationally — players have raised £438 million so far. For details of the charities and good causes which are promoting and benefitting from the lottery draws, please visit https://www.postcodelottery.co.uk/good-causes/draw-calendar
  • It costs £10 a month to play and winning postcodes are announced every day. The maximum amount a single ticket can win is 10% of the draw proceeds For details, please visit www.postcodelottery.co.uk/prizes
  • New players can sign up to pay using direct debit by calling 0808 10 9 8 7 6 5. New players who sign up online at www.postcodelottery.co.uk can pay using direct debit, debit card or PayPal.
  • Postcode Lottery Limited is regulated by the Gambling Commission under licence numbers: 000-000829-N-102511 and 000-000829-R-102513. Registered office: Titchfield House, 69/85 Tabernacle Street, London, EC2A 4BD
  • Follow us @PostcodePress
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.