The 8th of September was proclaimed International Literacy Day by UNESCO in 1966. The aim of this day is to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights and to advance the literacy agenda towards a more literate and sustainable society.
We live in a society where economic and class inequalities are more pronounced than ever. At the same time, we have to deal with the major issue of migration. People who were forced to migrate are not numbers. They are human beings and they have the same needs as us.
At Quantum BITS we believe that access to knowledge and information is a basic good and no one should be deprived of it. That’s why we actively support non-profit organizations like We Need Books and we are proud of their development and societal footprint.
We Need Books is an Athens based NGO that believes that multicultural spaces and books serve several important functions that can be of great benefit to all layers of the population of the city, including marginalized and vulnerable populations such as migrants and refugees.
Let’s see what the co-founder of WE NEED BOOKS, Ioanna Nissiriou has to tell us:
- How was We Need Books created?
In what we call the peak of the refugee crisis in 2015, Ioanna and Nadir, two people from completely different backgrounds had the fortune to cross each other’s path. They shared a house for a little while and during that time they also shared their hopes and dreams for a fairer world. The conversations led to action and soon they were fundraising to buy books for the children in the camps, in their mother tongue. To be allowed to access the camps and set up libraries they had to be part of an organization and that is how We Need Books was founded. It was named after the first crowdfunding campaign.
We created We Need Books to address an urgency and we saw that this urgency was not going to go away. Books in the camps is one thing, but a healthy society also needs spaces where people of different backgrounds can come together on equal terms. Spaces that are safe, spaces that offer access to knowledge, spaces that are as warm and beautiful as the people who frequent them.
- Which is the mission and vision of We Need Books?
We Need Books’ vision is a society that does not discriminate. We believe this is possible through equal access to education, inclusive spaces and programs and through the promotion of interculturalism. Everything we do, the books that are on the shelves of the library, the classes we offer, the events we organize, even the way we welcome visitors are all aligned with these beliefs.
- How does We Need Books help refugees?
We Need Books is a welcoming space, open and free to everyone. Refugees can come here and even if they do not speak Greek, they still feel included and respected when they find books in their language. It is a safe and calm space, away from crowded shelters and camps. It feels like home. In this environment it becomes easier to connect with other people, to feel less isolated and to develop a sense of belonging. Refugees can practice their Greek and English here if they wish to, and they can attend language classes. They can spend time with their children reading books from their countries. Their children meet other children from the neighborhood, and we become a community of young and old book-lovers with no labels. It is a very natural way to integrate into Greek society.
- How has Quantum BITS helped We Need Books?
Neither of the founders of We Need Books knew anything about running an NGO when we started. Quantum BITS has been a valued partner as we navigate uncharted waters. Their knowledge and experience have helped us with our fundraising efforts and their orderliness and patience have made it possible for us to continue our work. It is wonderful to work with people who acknowledge your vision and your efforts and whose humanity and quality of character you can rely on.