We Love Reading started its training sessions inside the refugees’ camps (Azraq and JEC) through some partner organizations in May 2016. Life inside the Azraq camp is different from that of other camps that WLR works in because the refugees inside the Emirati camp already are supplied with their basic needs and their life is easier than in other camps, but they cannot gather or express their opinions. The refugees inside the Azraq camp, on the other hand, are suffering from poor conditions such as water shortages, no electricity, and unfit shelters, and these circumstances comprise another challenge for WLR.
At the beginning, they told us that the initiative would not succeed in the Azraq camp because of the living circumstances because refugees would only be concerned with satisfying basic needs such as food, water, and shelter. They said they would not value entertainment or reading for children. Also, many of the parents do not even send their children to school because they believe there is no point of education when they are living in such bad conditions. This significantly raises the proportion of children that cannot read or write. Keeping these concerns and doubts in mind, WLR and its volunteers set off to prove them wrong, or at least prove that reading is important to everyone, even if they are refugees.
We held two training sessions with cooperation with NRC which were met with great success, to our surprise. During the first training, the trainees were between 17 and 30 years old and were very excited to start WLR libraries, and as we finished the training they started to speak to the NCR official to request permission to use their facilities and start WLR reading circles. The volunteers also read inside their caravans. After the second training, the trainees’ ages were between 40 and 55 ,and this training eliminated for good any doubt from the beginning about the success of WLR.
When we asked the trainees about their first experience reading for children, many of them, especially men, said that they started to feel young again and think back towards their childhoods and started to feel like there was communication with the children. One of our trainees answered that “usually I raise my voice when I feel angry or am singing, so my children are surprised when I raise my voice for a different reason, to read a story for them. The result was them starting to feel happy.” Another trainee told us about his reading to join the training and he said “It is a good idea that will decrease the percentage of children that don’t know how to read or write. And through my reading sessions I will encourage them to love reading and when I give them the stories to take home I am encouraging them to love reading.”
After the first day of the second training, Ahmed Al Abdullah (Abu Layth) asked the trainers to let his wife attend the training since he hadn’t understood the importance of the training before. After realizing it significance on the first day, he then wanted his wife to be able to participate, and he already knew that his wife has a special talent which makes her amazing at reading out loud. On the second day, his wife Majd Qasham joined and was very excited to read after her husband and the instructors filled her in on the previous session. After the training, all the trainees became WLR ambassadors and opened libraries, and after one month we visited Abu Layth and his wife to follow up on the progress of their reading sessions where more than 30 children of different ages attend. Then, we asked them about their experience reading allowed to children and they said that the number of children attending grows every day. They were interested in listening to the stories and Majd told us that she always wants to be an ambassador and she had told her father, who is still at the Syrian border with Turkey, about the program. He sent a poem in response and she replied with another poem. His poem is as follows:
I like that you are a bookworm
So that the bad things will go away
And your thinking will be clear.
The book is the road for people who love life,
Who will be a good friend
And will not leave you or disappear.
Books are the way to achieving glory
That show you the best path.