Innovation in Libraries April Grant: Refugee and Migrant Library in Serbia

This project will create a library for refugees and migrants in transit in Belgrade, Serbia coming from war-torn and underdeveloped countries. Currently, around 1,500 to 2,000 Urdu speaking refugees and migrants from Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2,500-3,000 Farsi speaking refugees from Afghanistan and Iran, and 1,400 from Syria and other Middle East countries are stranded in transit in Serbia, attempting to find safety and security in Europe. In conversations, Jasmine discovered that many refugees requested access to reading material to expand their knowledge as they wait for their name to be accepted for various asylum enabling lists. Alongside their European language classes here in Belgrade, many refugees crave to fill their abundant free time with continued basic education while waiting for their refugee and migrant applications to be processed.

With a grant from the Critical Language Scholarship Alumni Fund and help from on-the-ground activists in Pakistan, Jasmine was able to collect a number of books for refugee enrichment and learning in the Urdu language. With a successful GoFundMe page, Jasmine funded the shipping of the cargo from Pakistan to Serbia. The Awesome Foundation funding will add the Pashto, Farsi, and Arabic language material to the library. With the availability of this material, Syrian refugees (who mainly live in refugee camps scattered throughout Serbia) visiting Belgrade and Afghani refugees and migrants who don’t speak Urdu will have access to reading material as well. Reading material includes textbooks, non-fiction books, poetry, novels, children’s books, and beginner script books for teaching language. Book will be purchased from bookstores in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran.

The library will be maintained by the Education Center in downtown Belgrade and managed by the local NGOs Refugee Aid Serbia and North Star. This open library will be accessible to all refugees and migrants in Serbia.

I’m so grateful for the Innovation in Libraries AF Chapter for providing the resources to expand the refugee and migrant library in Belgrade, Serbia to include literature in Farsi, Pashto and Arabic. The grant will positively influence thousands of people enduring the treacherous journey from conflict stricken and opportunity deprived regions. Sustainable educational and enrichment efforts are crucial to making aid well-rounded. I hope this library inspires more of its kind throughout the refugee and migrant route to Europe.” – Jasmine Passa, Fulbright Scholar, Niš, Serbia

We’re now accepting applications for our May 2017 micro-grant (deadline May 15). For more information, visit the grant webpage or apply via the Awesome Foundation.