BookMachine | Refugee libraries in Calais and beyond

UNHCR_LOGO_1This fortnight for BookMachine, I felt moved to write about very serious and relevant topic. The refugee situation at the moment is really untenable, not just in Europe but around the world.

There are many organisations you can donate to to help those most in need, but my favourite one is UNHCR, who do really excellent work everywhere. If this sort of thing really gets you in the gut, though, rather than simply donating clothes or tents to a camp, maybe consider volunteering there: in Calais in particular, they now need people to help sort through all the donations almost more than they need donations themselves.

Rant over, here’s the article:

There is a common misconception that refugee camps are temporary structures, built to house a population consistently on the move. The truth of the matter is, however, that these structures can remain in place for a long time and develop a life of their own.

Just like any other town, long-term refugee camps require supplies and structures to help their inhabitants learn and develop. The ability to access books and learning materials are crucial to this, and it’s often done through libraries.

Refugee libraries around the world

Dadaab in Kenya is the oldest and largest refugee camp in the world: with a population of over 463,000, it was first started over twenty years ago in 1991. After such a long time, the camp has developed its own infrastructure, including shops, places of worship, schools and libraries. The Dadaab refugees even have their own newspaper, written and produced within the camp itself.

This isn’t a one-off incident: from Chad to Sahrawi, camps and the charities that support them are developing libraries in order to provide refugees with opportunities for education and hope.

Closer to home, Jungle Books was recently set up by British teacher Mary Jones in the Calais camp colloquially known as ‘The Jungle’. The library is a hub for the refugees, who not only read but also hold events there, including cultural talks and language classes. They are even gathering instruments and hope to begin teaching music. The refugees help Mary as she helps them: she’s even sourced four laptops and is getting a generator and 4G router so that they have an internet connection. The external response, and the support from the refugees themselves, has been so strong that Jungle Books is planning an extension. [READ MORE]

Posted In