At the age of twelve Nadir Noori fled Afghanistan to escape Taliban recruitment. He was not literate nor did he speak the languages of the countries he was fleeing to. Four years into his escape he landed in Greece. Unlike the boy he was when he fled his homeland, Nadir learned to read, write and to speak five languages. He had access to books for the first time in his life, and because of this his whole life (and the lives of many around him) changed course. He learned not only languages but that there was a world much larger full of many other ideas and ideals than he had previously been exposed to. Today Nadir is a high school graduate and works as a translator in Greece providing a critical service as the refugee crisis unfolds. He is also an avid photographer and human rights activist.
Ioanna Nissiriou was born and raised in Athens, and had a successful career working as a producer for MTV and Nickelodeon channels. Yet, when Ioanna saw the refugee crisis unfolding, she knew she could not sit on the sidelines and watch, she had to take action. She was compelled to do something as the crisis touched a part of Ioanna’s own family experience. Her Grandmother Amphitriti was a refugee from Turkey in 1917. Amphitriti’s family was forced to leave Turkey with less than a day’s notice and could take only what they could carry. When they arrived in Greece they were put into a refugee camp where her parent’s quickly perished. Amphitriti was four years old and an orphan with no food and no one to take care of her in a new country. She had to scratch the walls to scrape off the plaster to eat it to fill her belly and survive. Eventually a local family took her in and provided for her, sending her to school and opening her life to possibilities she would not have had otherwise. Caring for others and education are central values Ioanna’s family believes in.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
— Mahatma Gandhi
In response to the current crisis, Ioanna quit her job and the safety it provided her, so she could spend all her time on the current refugee and migrant cause. She made the decision to open up her home to a refugee to help. The refugee she sheltered was a shy, hardworking, artistic young man named Nadir. This meeting would change both of their lives and the lives of many around them. Instead of there being a faceless refugee crisis, suddenly there was a name and face for the real people that she and others feel compelled to help.
Together Nadir and Ioanna have formed We Need Books.
The refugee and migrant crisis in Greece has now been ongoing for several years. While many hard working officials, NGO staff and citizenry are working on ways to help refugees and migrants survive this crisis, there are few efforts focusing beyond survival, towards helping refugees and migrants thrive in Greece. We Need Books is focused on the future and towards building an inclusive, stronger Greek community.
By building a multicultural space, providing access to knowledge, and kindling social cohesion, we want to give migrants access to information, people, community, to jumpstart their new life in Greece and the EU. We want to inspire them to dream bigger. We like to imagine a little girl from Afghanistan who doesn’t even know how to hold a pencil or spell her name and we want to give her the opportunity to be an author. It is not just because we want to give this little girl a chance but because the world will be a better place with her book in it.