Keep the mobile library for refugees on the road!

By ECHO for Refugees

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Help us keep dreams and drive alive

Imagine life as a refugee. Fleeing from war, economic hardship, or persecution, you are told to wait indefinitely for your asylum application to be processed. This process can take months, or years. At any moment you could receive a call telling you your claim has been rejected, and you may be deported. Language barriers make integration difficult. An uncertain legal status limits your access to formal education. A nearly non-existent employment market makes you feel like building your future is impossible. Your life is in limbo.

Photo credit: Laura Samira Naude

ECHO Refugee Library is on a mission to change this. We are a mobile educational hub servicing camps, squats and community centres where asylum-seekers wait for their asylum claims to be heard and processed. Some will live in this status-less limbo for years, with limited access to formal education and a nearly non-existent employment market.

Working in the context of Greece, where economic hardship has affected the lives of both Greeks and incomers alike, we aim to facilitate integration and pathways to opportunity.

In order to assist asylum-seekers with gaining qualifications, learning languages, applying for jobs or just getting lost in a good book, our mobile library offers:

  • Access to online university courses with certification through platforms such as Coursera
  • Access to language learning resources, both print and digital
  • Advice on CVs, cover letters, university and job applications
  • Books in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, French, Turkish, Kurdish, Greek and English (a collection which needs constant expanding to meet a dynamic demographic)
  • A platform for knowledge sharing, storytelling, and the promotion of artistry and cultural activities
  • A pop-up social space with tea, coffee and board games

    Photo credit: Roger Cuartielles

We need your help.

We currently survive solely on generous donations to keep the mobile library running. Without a steady source of funding, the library operations will need to close down within the month.

Photo credit: Keoma Zec

Why a library?

Over 60,000 refugees were stranded in Greece after the closing of the borders to the rest of Europe in March 2016.

Photo credit: Laura Samira Naude

The asylum process is long and uncertain. The former so-called 'relocation system' ended last year, so pathways out of Greece are fewer and more difficult to reach. For a growing number of refugees, Greece is the end of the road, and they will have to endure an excessively long asylum application process, overcome prejudice and language barriers to integrate into an already struggling economy.

The wait is lengthy, and agonising.

Photo credit: Laura Samira Naude

For children, valuable years of education and development are being lost. For teenagers and adults, the lack of opportunity to study and build their futures, or to work and provide for their families, is the most difficult part of this entire journey.

These are people full of drive and dreams of the future they desire for themselves and their families. They are intelligent, skilled, and hard-working, seeking only the opportunity to build their lives in safety and with dignity.

Photo credit: Keoma Zec

Who are we?

ECHO (Education.Community.Hope.Opportunity) Refugee Library was formed by a small group of volunteers, who fell in love with people who showed the truest face of humanity in an inhumane context. Ranging from the UK, Belgium, Ireland, South Africa, Peru and Holland - we came from all over with one vision to do something for the incredible and resilient people we met in Greece.

ECHO Refugee Library operates under the umbrella of ECHO for Refugees - a UK registered charity (Registration No. 1178189)

Our team on the ground is always expanding, and working hard to keep the library on the road and fill every book request we meet.

We are a small but deeply dedicated team. We are always looking for committed members to join us! Reach out at [email protected] with any questions.

Photo credit: Roger Cuartielles

What we are doing

The library has been running since November 2016, first in Northern Greece and now operates in and around the Athens area. Since we first hit the road, the library has visited 21 sites throughout Greece, circulating as many resources as possible. You can learn more about the mobile library's story here.

The library van currently visits 8 sites on a regular schedule - with your help, we can do even more! We have the funds to make it through one more month, which is why we are asking for an amount that will ensure 6 more months running time.

We need your help now

Everything we have been able to do up to this point has been due to the generosity of others supporting this initiative.

The mobile library costs around £2500 a month to run. In the interest of transparency, we are happy to provide a full breakdown of costs to anyone who asks.

Every little bit helps keep us on the road. Entire lives are at standstill; they need not be. We want to keep dreams and drive alive, regardless of circumstance. You can help us do that.

Photo credit: Keoma Zec

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Team Members

ECHO Refugee Library

Esther ten Zijthoff

Laura Samira Naude