Esther and Laura on how they started a mobile library for refugees in Greece

ECHO is a mobile library helping refugees in Greece. Around 80,000 displaced people in Greece are currently stuck in isolated camps that lack basic facilities, let alone a library. ECHO is a grassroots project organized through a community network between Athens and eleven camps and community centers in mainland Greece. I speak to Laura Naude and Esther ten Zijthoff, two of the founders. 

Listen to the song I wrote after being inspired by my conversation with Esther and Laura called, unsurprisingly enough, ‘Mobile Library’ and all the other Podsongs 






Lyrics to the song that was inspired by the interview:



Our story starts at the Macedonian border 

Two volunteers, Ester and Laura 

There’s a refugee camp here 
And in the toxic atmosphere 

Their degrees in development 

Didn’t seem relevant 

The borders closed and no one knows 
People got no place to go so 
They get no relocation 
Got no motivation 
No access to books or communication 
What could make them… smile? 

Mobile library 
Breaking through bureaucratic Bullshit 
Mobile library 
Just solo and independent 


Fund raising got the girls a mini-van 

Turned into a library with a handyman 

Kitted it with Wifi and tables and chairs 
Donations arrived from Dubai 

Supplies from Saudi Arabia 
Soon they had books in Farcy 

French and Arabic 

Urdu, English, Kurdish and Greek 

Harry Potter helped Akmed disappear 
Ali escaped with Agatha Christie 
Malcolm Gladwell showed Hussan 
How Little Things Can Make a Difference 
 Mohammed was rejected, just sat in his chair 
Until he read Slumdog Millionaire 

And when the snow was falling 

The tents were freezing 
F                                                           C 
Dan Brown, kept people warm 
While Callon from Camaroon 

Who’d come on foot to get there 

Walked to Freedom with Nelson Mandela 

It was a simple idea that people will never forget 
Access to books and the internet 
The van keeps moving they  can't settle down 
They have to park outside the camps 
Stopped by police, for disturbing the peace 
There are no happy endings in the story of Greece 

Mobile library 
Rising above reality 
Mobile library 
Changing lives one book at a time, yeah 

Only the cream of Syrian society 

Could afford the fee of being refugees 

Now doctors, pharmacists and lawyers 
Counting their cents 

Living in tents 

While smuggler’s kids get their homes as presents 


But there’s more irony when they land on the beach 

€20,000 euros waiting for each 

Not that it’s ever really meant for them 
Am                  F                                  C 
It’s there to pay for the entire system 


And it’s the new Greek graduates 
Who get a lot of the revenue 

Getting their breakthrough 
With the EU 

You don’t hear anymore about the Greek crisis 
G                                                     C 
It’s been solved by Assad and Isis 

While the UN guys 

Rent top of the range, four wheel drives 

And who knows where the money for the NGOs goes! 


Mobile library 
Bordered bodies but minds free 
Mobile sanctuary 
Taking literature, literally 

Mobile missionary 
Independent, voluntary 
Mobile emissary 
Giving back, dignity 


To be fair they're just trying to fit in 
In Thessaloniki they're all on the take 
Even the elements give you no place to go 
Incredible heat or freezing snow 
And all they ever hear is people complaining 
But everything's solved by double-glazing 
It can be tough to get through another day 
To make it from frappe to frappe