After a natural disaster or during a political conflict, humanitarian aid naturally focuses on providing food, health care, shelter, and clothing. Once these basic needs have been met, we believe that it is essential for affected communities to connect to worlds of information and knowledge in order to fight ignorance and boredom and to build resilience for a more self-reliant future inside and outside the camps. By providing access to the Internet, books, cinema, theatre and educationnal resources, the Ideas Box provides children and communities the tools to cope with boredom and trauma and to create their own solutions to the challenges they face.
We also believe that culture is a formidable force for promoting peace and reconciliation. Access to information, education, and culture are critical in conditions of post-conflict and transitional justice to promote healing and build more tolerant communities. As Colombia moved toward peace with Latin America’s longest standing revolutionary group, the FARC, the Colombian Ministry of Culture reached out to LWB to support the implementation of mobile libraries in areas where demobilized fighters would live.
- The Syrian Crisis in the Middle East
The Middle East is a critical response zone for Libraries Without Borders, which has implemented four Ideas Box projects in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, and is preparing a dozen more. We implement projects in both refugee camps and host communities. Our programs in the Middle East are built in accordance with regional humanitarian response plans, with a particular focus on issues related to education, child protection, and capacity-building of refugee populations.
- The African Great Lakes Region
We began our first Ideas Box program with one Ideas Box in Burundi in early 2014, and now we have four inside and outside the camps. These Ideas Boxes attract thousands of people every week and have since become landmarks and community centers. With political conflict spreading in the region, LWB has broadened its work to include Rwanda, Tanzania, and especially Kenya, where we will open a program in 2017.
- The European Refugee Crisis
Libraries Without Borders also provides support to the millions of refugees that have been arriving in Europe since 2012, with over 1.3 million in 2015 alone. In a pilot project, LWB launched three Ideas Box projects in Greece (Lesbos and Athens), one in Germany (Düsseldorf), and three in France (Paris and the Grande-Synthe camp). Initially, we designed these projects to have rapid impact, support refugees in transit, provide legal assistance, and help refugees locate family members. The Ideas Box projects quickly became safe spaces, which our local partners asked that we convert into reception and integration areas focused on education, child protection, and the empowerment of refugee communities.
- The Peace Process in Colombia
As Colombia moved toward peace with Latin America’s longest standing revolutionary group, the FARC, the Colombian Ministry of Culture reached out to LWB to support the implementation of mobile libraries in areas where demobilized fighters would live. Despite the failure of the popular peace referendum in 2016, LWB continues to work in Colombia with the Ministry of Culture and the Colombian National Library. In 2017, LWB will have 20 Ideas Box projects in the country, used in rural areas as part of the use of cultural tools to promote peace, reconciliation, and tolerance among Colombians.