The 25,045 brand new books that supporters like you helped to send to Syria have now reached schools and Idlib University in the north of the country! Each of those books provides the opportunity to read, learn and escape into a great story.
Watch this video from our partner Syria Relief to see the books in action:
We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who made this shipment possible.
Sadly, Syria is just one of many places across the world where children’s lives are affected by conflict. With your support we can send more books to help children in conflict zones continue to learn, dream and be inspired.
12 year old Omar* lives with his family in Idlib, the last major opposition-controlled area in Syria. Civillians there live under the constant threat of bombing, shelling and fighting between different armed groups.
Omar has lost friends to the conflict, yet he continues to dream of his future career.
Books that you have helped to send are now on their way Omar’s school to give him and his friends new material to inspire their childhood dreams.
Here, Omar tells us more about his life in Idlib and his hopes for the future.
I live in Idlib with my family: my mum, my dad and my older sister who is 13 years old. Syria is a beautiful country with very peaceful people but then bad people came and there was a war.
This summer I played football with my friends and my dad taught me how to ride a bicycle.
At school, I am in sixth grade. I enjoy going to school. My favourite subject is science and I want to be a scientist when I grow up. I love science, especially finding out about the trees and the plants.
In my school there is a little library. I sometimes bring books back home from school. Either I read them or my mum reads us a story before we go to sleep. I like reading and I like learning new things from books.
I can’t believe it, are you really sending us new books?
I am very happy about this. I am excited to receive some new science books.
I hope that after the war, Syria will go back to being a beautiful and peaceful country as it used to be.
We are waiting for the books!
*Omar’s name has been changed for security reasons.
Fatmeh* lives in Idlib, Syria and has been a school teacher there for the past six years. Since the war began in 2011, one million displaced Syrians have flooded into Idlib Province, the last major opposition-controlled area. Civilians there are living under the constant threat of bombing, shelling and fighting between different armed groups.
Here Fatmeh tells us about life for the children of Idlib and how, despite everything, inspiring items like books can help children have hope for the future.
Our country has been at war for seven years now. Every day I see how it affects our country’s children.
The war has instilled fear in our children. Many bombs were dropped here and now every time the children hear a plane overhead, they are scared. When a plane is flying above us we bring the children into the basement and we sing loudly together. It helps them overcome their fear.
A lot of families are not sending their children to school because they need them to work to survive. They come one day and then miss a few other days. So they aren’t fully involved in their education because they don’t know if they will come back to school.
When we were children, we used to dream – I knew I wanted to be a teacher. But now our children don’t have hope for the future because they don’t know what will happen tomorrow. They are vulnerable and at risk of being recruited by armed groups.
Since the conflict started, education has become more creative. We’ve learnt to use materials which we find around us, like leaves and discarded cardboard, to keep lessons interesting. But we have less than 100 books for nearly 700 children. Even if we had the funds, we wouldn’t be able to buy books as there are no bookshops.
So I was very happy when I heard that Book Aid International is sending us new books for our library.
Books are important in a warzone because they take our minds away from what we are living in; they help us dream and if they are funny, they make us happy.
These books have the power to change our children’s lives because, through reading, they will learn new skills and become more creative. The books will give hope once more to the children.
We are very much looking forward to the books arriving as they will make a big difference. As Al Mutanabbi, an Arab poet, says “The best friend is your book”.
*Fatmeh’s name has been changed for security reasons.
Suha Tutunji is the Academic Director at Jusoor, an NGO of Syrian expats which works to support the country’s development and help Syrian youth reach their full potential. Suha and her team run a number of education projects including a refugee education programme in Lebanon to help out-of-school Syrian children continue learning and transition into the Lebanese school system.
Books you have helped to send are being used by Jusoor to support this programme. We talked to Suha to find out more.
Can you tell us a bit more about Jusoor’s work?
Jusoor believes that youth in Syria should have access to profoundly better opportunities. In particular, we hope for a nation that embraces democracy, respects human rights and the rule of law and encourages free speech and the exchange of ideas. Our work focusses on education to make this possible.
How does the refugee education programme in Lebanon fit into that?
Our refugee education programme seeks to ensure Syrian children in Lebanon have a well-rounded primary education. We focus on Lebanon as it hosts the largest number of Syrian refugee children in the region.
A huge gap in education exists for many Syrian children in Lebanon. In addition to an insufficient number of school places, children face large barriers to accessing education. The Lebanese curriculum is very different from the Syrian curriculum. From year one, classes are taught in French or English but few Syrian parents or children will know these languages.
So our programme provides non-formal education to out-of-school Syrian children to familiarise them with the Lebanese curriculum and learn enough English to enable them to successfully enrol in public schools in Lebanon.
How will the brand new books we have sent help with this work?
Book Aid International has donated children’s books and resource books to support our three education centres and we have also shared them with two other schools in Lebanon. The books will be a great aid.
They will be used by our teachers to aid them in teaching maths and English. They will also help in our anti-bullying campaign as one of the books is about how to tackle that issue. In addition, our teachers will also add to their knowledge by reading the resource books for ideas.
Our students will benefit from reading stories. Having access to these books in English will widen the children’s horizons and they will get a better chance of continuing their education in Lebanon and abroad.
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 Livesstrategy 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.
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.
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 Havensproject
Giving secondary school pupils in Zambia new resources to study and succeed in their exams by creating Study Hubs
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!
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.
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.