13-year-old child establishes library for Eastern Ghouta children
(Zaman Al Wasl)- Ro’aa al-Hariri, 13-year-old, a Syrian girl living in Turkey managed to establish a free cultural library in the East Ghouta. The initiative came after Ro’aa provided sent many books to refugee camps in Syria and elsewhere to enable Syrian children to develop their reading hobby and give them an exit from the atmosphere of war and siege.
Speaking to Zaman al-Wasl, Aswan Nahar, Ro’aa’s mother said that the family value reading and culture so Ro’aa grew up in a house where books and reading were very important. Since Ro’aa was seven, Aswan who works as in humanitarian relief, used to take Ro’aa and her brother to the book exposition in Abu Dhabi every year while they lived there.
With the start of the revolution, Aswan and her husband were involved in initiatives to help their fellow Syrians. Aswan explains that her daughter was influenced by their work and sought ways to help as well. Ro’aa, who was seven at the time, began gathering the books she grew bored of and sending them to refugee camps for children in those camps to enjoy and benefit from them.
Ro’aa’s example prompted others to help as many of her friends and her friends’ families began gifting Ro’aa books for her to send them to refugee camps in northern Syria and elsewhere.
Aswan explained that “when Ro’aa saw the possibility of connecting with the children of the besieged Eastern Ghouta through the Noor Group for Breaking the Siege, she came up with the idea of starting a library.” The library is part of the Nour Group For Breaking the Siege’s work. Since the conceiving the idea, Ro’aa thought of different ways to the library idea. She started out making accessories and crafts and selling them to her friends in school. Later, friends of the family began helping her by collecting books for the project.
Regarding the types of books Ro’aa has sent to the Eastern Ghouta, Aswan explains that the books vary from cultural books, novels, children's stories to scientific books. According to Aswan, the Eastern Ghouta Library project took off properly after a woman named Oum Samih began collecting books that were in warehouses or on roads and sometimes under rubble for the library. She also printed out the electronic books they sent her to begin forming nucleus of the library.
Since its establishment, the library has become a space for different people children and adults to engage and benefit from the project. The library allows users to read books on the premises and borrow them for free. Other than the possibility of reading, the library hosts many activities including: painting, coloring and story creation through painting or recycling. The library has two shifts with the morning period being dedicated for children and evening for young people. The library provides all these services although it is based on individual efforts and does not receive assistance from any associations or organizations.
The library has also become a cultural space and is used by a diverse range of people. According to Aswan, the library has shown several cultural films that were discussed by adults and children alike. Intellectuals in Eastern Ghouta present lectures about different issues in the library, but these activities have unfortunately stopped due to the deteriorating conditions.
Aswan Nahar expressed her happiness at her daughter's initiative and hopes that it will inspire other children to undertake similar initiatives. She explained that children achieving such projects will contribute to rebuilding their confidence which has been destroyed by the war.
About the future she said, “Ro’aa envisages establishing a library everywhere in Syria to be a forum for reading, discussion, and writing as well as starting a mobile library for as a moving cultural space.”