We all know the headlines; “Over 27.000 refugee sea arrivals in 2019”, “Nearly 60.000 migrants have died or gone missing since 2014”, “ The European Union experience dramatic influx of refugees and migrants”.
Headlines that for the past years on a daily basis has reminded us of one of the biggest human catastrophies and declines of the 21st century: The refugee crisis.
Despite the heavy news coverage, the refugee crisis can seem distanced from everyday life of most people not directly involved. This is both natural but also dangerous. In order to welcome refugees and migrants and treat them with human decency, helping them to the best life possible and giving them a sustainable path for the future it is utterly important that we – both as individuals and as communities – try to understand, that behind all the refugee statistics, behind all the headlines there are real fellow human beings with stories, needs and hopes for the future.
If anything libraries are promoters of stories and are sat in the world to connect people. For my part I would also argue that libraries are forces of social good and has an obligation to foster social justices and help communities fight inequality and polarization. At Roskilde Libraries we are trying to do those things with A Million Stories – an intercultural storytelling project co-funded by The European Union’s Creative Europe programme.
In order to open a window to the humans behind the statistics and headlines Roskilde Libraries, in collaboration with the public libraries of Cologne and Malmö and the Future Library in Athens, decided to create A Million Stories. A Million Stories is a digital library of human experiences, containing more than 600 stories from refugees that have fled to EU in recent years. The central intention of A Million Stories is to create a platform likely to foster respect and understanding for intercultural diversity and the human behind the refugee label by creating references we can all recognize from our own everyday lives through storytelling.
The beginning of a story:
Rajeh is born in 1990, and from Zabadani, Syria.
I had a very pleasurable life. I had everything I needed. We owned four shops, we did maintenance of computers and cellphones. I did not finish my education.
We needed to escape to save our lives. I came to Denmark via Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Serbia, Hungary, Macedonia, Austria and Germany. I have been her for four years now. I still don’t have a permission to stay.
From Copenhagen, I was transferred to Sønderborg. I had to validate my ID all the time. I got my asylum card in 2015. I moved from Sønderborg to a camp near Roskilde, and was then transferred to Holstebro. I got rid of most of my clothes because I was moved all the time. I got very depressed from moving from place to place. I don’t think they think that I come from a country where there is war. (link to the full story: http://refugeelives.eu/2019/02/20/the-police-see-me-as-a-criminal-but-i-am-a-victim-of-war/#more-3902)
The 4 libraries in the project has been interviewing and collecting stories from refugees across various countries giving them an opportunity to tell their story; Why they fled, how there life was before, how their life are now and their hopes for the future. A Million Stories enables refugees to share their stories in various formats including film, audio, visual and written stories and we allow them to tell their stories regardless of language and storytelling capabilities. We have collected stories from refugees of all ages and over time we anticipate the platform to grow in size and impact, inviting all libraries and other relevant institutions to contribute to A Million Stories.
In Roskilde we promote A Million Stories as a resource to educational institutions, in programs and to citizens coming to the library for information about refugees, migrants or intercultural relations.
A Million Stories also provides a toolkit for libraries who wants to use the stories to bridge understanding for refugees and intercultural relations in their communities: http://refugeelives.eu/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/AMS-Toolkit.pdf
Huge shout-out to project managers Melanie Holst and Martin Zandi from Roskilde Libraries along with our partnering libraries for the huge and important work they have done to make A Million Stories come true.
Hear Melaine tell about A Million Stories here:
A video about the background and making of the project:
Hear Abdulhai Mohammad Zai, 27 years old and from Afghanistan tell his story: