Minivan Libraries Provide Literary Relief To Refugees Waiting In Greece

Initiatives such as the Echo Refugee Library are providing free resources, such as fictional books and dictionaries, to refugees who are waiting to relocate.

Credit: AFP / LEFTERIS PARTSALIS

When you’re waiting for life to turn around, boredom is not your friend. It is because of this that activists in Greece created the Echo Refugee Library. The minivan is fitted with shelves carrying up to 1,000 books and visits refugees on a weekly basis. The Echo Refugee library regularly refugee camps in the greater Athens area as well as poorer districts of the capital where scores of refugees live in UN-rented flats.

Tens of thousands of refugees have been stuck in Greece for the past two years after European states shut their borders in quick succession. While survival is no longer an issue, the onset of boredom and depression often times is. Despair can creep in as one waits for the unknown, which is why the Echo Refugee Library is so appreciated.

According to Esther Ten Zijthoff, 25, the Dutch-American coordinator of the project, the goal of the project is to “Make culture accessible to all.” Books in English, Greek, French, Arabic, Kurdish, and Farsi have been provided by gracious benefactors in Greece, Belgium, Britain, and Lebanon. Some resources have also been purchased online.

Credit: AFP / LEFTERIS PARTSALIS

Said Ali, a 26-year-old Syrian who makes a point to meet the mobile library when it visits the Athens food market, “I really love having something to read. It does me good.” Language dictionaries are always in demand, as people are eager to learn new skills to improve their chances at starting over in life.

GoodNewsNetwork reports that a similar initiative is making rounds in another part of the city center, and it is called We Need Books. Volunteers with the project give language classes in Arabic and French. The group also has the largest collection of Farsi books in Athens, including 150 which were sent directly from Afghanistan, said co-founder Ioanna Nissiriou.

Credit: AFP / ARIS MESSINIS

Nissirious, a 38-year-old journalist, told the press: “Initially our goal was to help refugees escape through literature. But now we also seek to educate the children and help them integrate.” Both groups are changing lives, as they are helping refugees combat boredom and learn valuable information.

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