Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Refugee Week and after

Refugee Week has been and gone. We had a table at the Civic Centre in Newcastle on June 19 and did our best to make it attractive by wrapping books in pretty paper and putting labels on with the names of the organisations we have given books to in the last couple of years.
Somehow we thought that the judges for the best stands were the visitors to the event, but it seems we were all supposed to vote for each other. Never mind, better luck next year.
The positive part was that we renewed contact with a number of projects we met last year and have now added the Pakistan Cultural Society, Open Door, Acane and the Comfrey Project to our list of recipients.

The Comfrey Project has three allotments in Newcastle and Gateshead where refugees can come to practice their gardening skills, learn about growing vegetables, fruit and flowers, or simply enjoy a few hours in the open air with friends. I went to the allotment in Felling with a couple of boxes of books to be shared between the three locations. - Seeing people cry out in joy at finding books in their first languages - Arabic, Farsi, Pashto - was hugely rewarding. Books with photos of Iraq and Afghanistan were studied with interest, and not a little sadness as they portrayed these countries 25 years ago, long before they had been bombed by the Americans and the British. I hope to spend more time close to the earth with this delightful group of people.

The Pakistan Cultural Society also invited me to come to some of their events, including a poetry reading in August. This promises to be a wonderful event with poets from many parts of the world.

This week Borderline Books has given away close to 600 books in total. Apart from those already mentioned, the recipients were Direct Access, with whom we hope to work more closely in the future, Shelter, Crisis, Open Door and Acane, an organisation of African refugees in Byker.

At the end of the week we will be sending another 100 or so books on their way to a school we have been supporting in Kenya. Anyone who knows the principles of Borderline Books knows that we tend to give priority to people living in the countries where we operate - currently the Netherlands and the UK. The main reason for this is simply that there are many organisations who work to send books and other items to countries in Africa and Asia, but few who concentrate on giving similar items to the Africans and Asians who are our direct neighbours. Nonetheless, we never refuse books to people who are travelling to other countries and wish to fill their suitcases with words.

We do our best....