Manchester Libraries from Home

Partner project

Refugee Week 2020

In response to the Covid-19 restrictions, Manchester Libraries from Home has created digital activities and shared them with our customers through our social media platforms.

During Refugee Week, we hosted four online conversations with refugees. The sessions were all virtual and linked in with the four libraries that are applying for Library of Sanctuary status (Central, Longsight, Forum and North City Library).

We had three conversationalists. Guy from Burundi, an inspiring young man who has kept himself and his younger siblings motivated and educated in Uganda. Shadi, a passionate musician and teacher and Syrian asylum seeker currently in a camp in Iraq without any of his musical instruments! Lastly Asalah, also a teacher from Syria, who with her husband has successfully claimed Refugee status in Italy. All conversationalists shared insights into their lives in their home countries both before and during the conflict and on how they’ve managed displacement alongside their hopes for the future. Hope, dignity, and positivity are the resounding commonality that all the conversationalists have in abundance alongside their experience of conflict. If there was ever a time to feel inspired by and reminded of the resilience and compassion of humanity it was during these conversations!

Karen, one of the conversation participants, said: “It felt a real privilege to be able to be part of a conversation with Asalah. She was so generous with her time, telling her story, and answering questions. It put the flesh on the bones of news stories about Syria and Syrian refugees. It was heartwarming and uplifting to hear how Asalah’s life is working out and join in her excitement for her imminent arrival of her baby son, who must be here by now!. Thank you for this fantastic opportunity.”

The conversations were organised by Na Takalam (“we speak” in Arabic) who work with refugees and asylum seekers providing employment opportunities through teaching language.