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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 16 September 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 16 SEPTEMBER 2017 21 GREECE ly been a positive one with an estimated 115 readers of all ages welcomed each week. "Many of these resources, particularly language learning support for speakers of Arabic and Farsi, are very hard to come by in this context and are hugely appreciated. People don't expect to be able to find books in their own languages here either, so they are usually quite pleased to find them in the van!" says Esther. "We might not have a huge collection but we have a good amount of Arabic and Urdu books, and are working on growing our Farsi and Kurdish collections," which she admits is no easy feat in Greece. People are permitted to bor- row books for up to a week with the possibility of renewal. So far the system has been successful by ensuring they run a fixed schedule that sees the library visit each site at the same time and on the same day each week so people know when to expect them. While the library has been a welcome addition, Esther says people's reactions are dependent on their mental state. With dwindling resources, she says their ef- forts have only reaffirmed the need for more mental health support services for those seeking asylum. "We have definitely seen a decrease in motivation and energy levels which affects people's ability to concentrate on reading a book, much less follow an online course," she explains. "There is definitely a broader need for psychosocial support in these contexts. Short of providing formal education opportunities and access to jobs, which is what would make the most difference, people's spirits and hope need to be kept up." Having started off near Thessaloniki, the library has since serviced much of northern Greece including the Vasilika camp, Elpida, Liti/Derveni, Softex, Frakapor, Polikastro Community Centre, Filoxenia (a housing block for vulnerable families) and a shelter for unaccompanied minors. Since May they have transitioned into Athens, lending their services to a City Plaza squat, One Stop (a drop-in space for homeless people in the centre of Athens), Eleonas Camp, Khora Community Centre, a women's centre, a youth centre, and are still looking to bring resources to other sites in the region if they are granted permission by the relevant authorities. Meanwhile, having received attention around the world, many volunteers and organisations in Serbia, Italy, Palestine and Lebanon have expressed that the mobile setup could work well in their local contexts. But after spending a yearand-a-half in Greece as volunteers with no salary, the pair are now looking to find a new coordination team that can take over the running of the library. "We have come to a point where we need to step away and support efforts from afar," Esther said. "We would hate for the project to stop, though, so we are on the lookout for a team to hand it over to. We still believe this is the right model for this (and similar) contexts, and feel strongly that the resources should circulate to as many sites as possible, connecting people with similar skills and interests along the way." For more on Education Community Hope and Opportunity (ECHO), visit echo-greece. org/ and follow them on Facebook @refugeelibrary.
09 September 2017
23 September 2017