Charities Comforting Ukrainian ChildrenRussia’s war with Ukraine has forced millions of Ukrainians to flee their homeland. The war is devastating the country; its infrastructure and economy are collapsing. Ukrainians are suffering on a large scale. As of May 2023, 8,255,288 refugees throughout Europe are noted. In response, there are charities comforting Ukrainian children through books.

Refugees receive vital needs such as food and shelter, yet they do not have the support for education or job opportunities.

Among the most vulnerable are children who need help to rebuild their livelihoods amid the displacement. The following are charities working to comfort Ukrainian children.

Books Away From Home

This organization is bringing refugee children books in their language. Books Away from Home help Ukrainian children connect to their homeland through its project: Books for the Youngest Ukrainian Refugees.

The nonprofit began with the goal of providing five picture books in Ukrainian to refugees in the Netherlands. In collaboration with the Ukrainian embassies in the Netherlands and Belgium, the Ukrainian Book Institute and Ten Brink Publishers, the Books for the Youngest Ukrainian Refugees project orders thousands of books for children in shelters, schools and hospitals.

Books for the Youngest Ukrainian Refugees has raised money for the publication and distribution of 20,000 books, and we receive new book requests daily from schools, families and refugee shelters.”

The project expanded to Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. The organization started with a focus on Ukrainian children, but the non-profit is developing projects for refugees all over the world who are taking refuge in Europe.

Better Time Stories

Better Time Stories is one of many charities comforting Ukrainian children. Its goal is to send Ukrainian refugee children living in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Austria books narrated by their loved ones.

How Does the Project Work

Children between the ages of 3 and 7 can receive a package with 5 picture books, an hour-and-a-half-long audiobook, a maximum of 25 narrations by family members recorded remotely and a crafts box to build a character.

Bestselling authors contribute to the project, helping Ukrainian children connect with their families stuck in Ukraine. The books offer themes of hope, love, new beginnings and sleep. Technology enables these children to hear their family member’s voices even when they are separated. So far, Better Time Stories has helped 5,056 families re-connect.

Books Follow – Zimin Foundation

The Zimin Foundation’s objective is to develop science and education for various communities throughout the world. The philanthropic organization has many partnerships with community organizations.

One project it participates in, Books Follow, is providing books for Ukrainian refugees. With a community of volunteers, the Zimin Foundation helps give thousands of books to Ukrainian refugee children living in Europe.

“The project also supported the procurement of books in Ukrainian, board games and drawing supplies and their delivery as Christmas gifts for 1,000 refugees from Ukraine living in various EU cities.”

Why do Refugees Need Books?

One child reads books from Better Time Stories with his host family. The children read different versions in their language. “Together they teach each other words in the other language, which often makes them laugh.” Despite the suffering and loss, children can find comfort in books. Books build community. Better Time Stories is one of three charities comforting Ukrainian children with the power of the written word.

– Ellie Bruce

Photo: Flickr

Awareness About Poverty
The World Bank reports that global poverty rose in 2020 as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the total number of impoverished people to more than 700 million. Poverty is a cyclical problem — the limited access to proper education and future income draws the next generation into similar circumstances of impoverishment. Reducing poverty begins with awareness of poverty. Three recently published books are raising awareness about poverty, leaving readers educated and inspired to fight against poverty.

Dissolving Misconceptions Through Books

The lack of public awareness of poverty and its detrimental effects has led to many widely held misconceptions. Global Citizen discusses the root of misconception — misinformation, which is “powerful enough to derail the real narrative around poverty, the people who experience it and the fight to end it.”

Misconceptions also can influence the actions of citizens and influential decision-makers. Working to end poverty worldwide begins by eliminating misconceptions and educating society on the true causes and effects of this global issue. Both realistic portrayals of poverty in fiction novels and informative nonfiction books covering poverty can be helpful tools to begin identifying and deconstructing harmful misconceptions.

3 Books that Raise Awareness About Poverty

  1. “The Poverty Line” by Stefen Chow and Huiyi Lin. Published in late 2021, “The Poverty Line” examines poverty regarding food. Authors Stefen Chow and Huiyi Lin traveled to 36 countries and territories to discern the food they could afford each day living on the poverty line set by that country’s government. The authors published and compared photographs of the obtainable food to give readers a visual of global poverty. With 150 million more people suffering from hunger between 2019 and 2022, it is evident that global food insecurity is rising. This is primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of climate change and conflict. Though poverty is often hard to define and visualize, Chow and Lin bring to life what poverty means in different countries through their photographs and elicit the sympathy of readers. The authors’ aim for the book is to give readers “an increased awareness about poverty and food issues in countries around the world and engage in discussion with others.”
  2. “Beyond Poverty” by Terry Dalrymple. Published in 2021, this book encourages readers to think beyond single community projects and begin movements that will transform multiple villages. Dalrymple discusses the “growing network of ministries” utilizing the Community Health Evangelism (CHE) strategy to transform the lives of those living in poverty across the world. The CHE movement looks to “promote Christ-centered wholistic development through empowerment strategies that avoid unhealthy dependencies” and combines spiritual well-being with efforts to impact community development and health in order to bring generations out of the cycle of poverty. CHE initiatives are based on eight outcomes: shared vision, leadership, ownership, cooperation, volunteers, dignity, learning and community.
  3. “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo. Named one of Time magazine’s 10 best nonfiction books of the decade, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” examines the lives of those living in Annawadi. This small slum exists in Mumbai and began in 1991 as authorities commissioned workers for repairs to the Mumbai airport runway. These workers, from Tamil Nadu, packed into this slum in hopes of finding future construction jobs. The book’s name originated from a large concrete wall, covered in cheerful slogans, that blocked the slum from the view of the upper class headed to the airport. One of these slogans was “Beautiful Forever,” which inspired the name of the book “Behind the Beautiful Forevers.” Boo walks the reader through the lives of some of the most impoverished residents of the Annawadi slums. Annawadi and other slums worldwide still face many of the same struggles of day-to-day survival that Boo touches on.

From Awareness to Action

Without action, awareness about poverty is futile in the fight against poverty. Therefore, it is essential when reading to identify and define actionable and achievable goals based on the information gathered.

Misconceptions surrounding poverty remain in the minds of many. Therefore, it is critical to dissolve these misconceptions and inspire people to get involved in humanitarian work to better the lives of the people whose stories the books raising awareness about poverty capture.

– Brooklynn Rich
Photo: Flickr

Health Care Poverty
Living in poverty is one of the primary obstacles to accessing health care. The financial relationship between income and proper health care is often linear: the more money an individual has, the better care they will receive. Poor health, however, is also a major cause of poverty. This is partly due to the costs of receiving care but also other costs such as transport, informal payments to providers and loss of income. Here are three books to read to learn more about the relationship between poverty and health care inequalities.

3 Books Explaining the Relationship Between Health Care and Poverty

  1. “The Moment of Lift” by Melinda Gates: In Melinda Gates’ book, “The Moment of Lift,” she emphasizes the key point that lifting a society is contingent on investing in women. Gates explores an array of topics from health care poverty to unpaid work and concludes that for a society to grow and flourish, women must also be empowered. From her experience abroad documenting and comparing the lives of women around the globe to her own experiences as a mother, Gates tackles heavy topics such as sexism, domestic violence and sexual assault. Gates writes, “It’s especially galling that some of the people who want to cut funding for contraception cite morality. In my view, there is no morality without empathy, and there is certainly no empathy in this policy. Morality is loving your neighbor as yourself, which comes from seeing your neighbor as yourself, which means trying to ease your neighbors’ burdens — not add to them.”
  2. “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World” by Tracy Kidder: “Mountains Beyond Mountains” is a beautifully written biography about Dr. Paul Edward Farmer, a man set on dedicating his life to treating the world’s poorest people. Dr. Farmer, an empathetic, self-assured and brilliant doctor opens Kidder’s eyes to the world of health care poverty. The book tells tales of both immense triumphs, but also incredible losses. In exploring the effects of health care stigma, manipulation and inequality around the world Kidder exposes the harsh realities of the world. Dr. Farmer stresses the importance of doing everything possible for every patient, noting that the way some deem certain groups expendable is the source of many of the world’s problems. Kidder writes, “Some people said that medicine addresses only the symptoms of poverty.”
  3. “An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action for the Twenty-First Century” by James Orbinski: Written by the former president of Medicins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors without Borders, Dr. James Orbinski expands on the humanitarian efforts made in order to improve global health. The story follows Dr. Orbinski as he works in various disease outbreaks, conflict zones and extreme poverty to fight for universal health care. He travels to Afghanistan, Chechnya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Peru, Kosovo, Somalia, Sudan and Zaire, with the goal of impacting as many lives as possible. The book exposes the harsh realities of the developing world and is not for the light-hearted. Writing about his time in Somalia, Dr. Orbinski revealed the brutal nature of his travels by stating, “I couldn’t sleep that night. There were three doctors in the entire Baidoa region, and thousands of people still dying.”

These three books clearly indicate the correlation between poverty and limited access to health care. These books help highlight potential solutions for those living in poverty who need to access quality health care.

– Opal Vitharana
Photo: Flickr

Global Citizen's Book of the Month
Global Citizen’s book of the month focuses on educating the public on issues surrounding global poverty, and it is of the utmost importance due to the fact that individuals can learn basic advocacy skills, which will allow and encourage citizens to communicate with their government to help end global poverty. Book clubs, such as the Global Citizen Book Club, handpick new books each month and offer participants a chance to discuss the books as they relate to ending extreme poverty. This educates and mobilizes individuals to learn the key causes of poverty, and how to advocate for those living on less than $1 per day.

Global Citizen’s Book of the Month for October 2021 is “The End of Bias: A Beginning” by Jessica Nordell. Global Citizen hosts a discussion each week in its “Global Citizen All-Access” Facebook Group in order to facilitate conversations surrounding major themes from the book and how they relate to global poverty.

Also, in the following month, Global Citizen will host a virtual discussion with the author, in which Global Citizen members will have the opportunity to engage with one another as well as ask the author questions. Global Citizen also sat down with the author, journalist Jessica Nordell, to discuss her book prior to the virtual discussion that will take place on November 9, 2021.

How to Start a Book Club

Individuals can start a UNICEF USA Book Club, which is a great way to bring family, friends and/or colleagues who love to read together to discuss important issues relevant to the work of UNICEF around the world. UNICEF offers a step-by-step guide on how to start a book club. The goal of starting a book club is to build a community of informed advocates who will act on behalf of those facing global poverty worldwide. The guide provides lists of recommended books, as well as questions to help guide discussions and key information about UNICEF and UNICEF USA.

Other Book Clubs

There are other book clubs that individuals can join as well. For instance, Opportunity International has its own book club, which offers book recommendations every month that feature works from international authors, people who are living in the countries in which Opportunity International works, or issues related to global poverty and development. This book club is a great way to learn and explore—right from the comfort of one’s couch. Opportunity International is a global nonprofit organization that creates opportunities and provides assistance “…for entrepreneurs to build their businesses, children to go to school, farmers to feed their communities, and families to end the cycle of generational poverty.” The organization has helped develop innovative programs to address challenges that living in poverty has brought to those around the world for nearly 50 years.

The Opportunity Book Club works by providing participants with book recommendations that cover a wide range of issues, such as poverty, development, philanthropy, generosity and global economics. The books that the Opportunity Book Club offers range in length, and span different genres and narrative styles to cater to different literary tastes. Members of the Opportunity Book Club can share their thoughts and opinions, and ask questions in the Opportunity International Facebook group, which provides a great way to connect with readers all over the world.

Concluding Thoughts

The benefit of Global Citizen’s Book of the Month and other book clubs is that they grant readers the opportunity to learn about important issues. The awareness that these book clubs raise could influence action regarding eradicating global poverty.

– Grace Watson
Photo: Flickr

Book About Human TraffickingIt is always a good time to start a new book. Reading improves memory and empathy and books are important gateways to learning something unfamiliar. Books can also provide intimate accounts of harrowing experiences such as human trafficking. In 2016, an estimated 24.9 million people were subject to forced labor. Of these people, “16 million were in the private economy, another 4.8 million were in forced sexual exploitation and 4.1 million were in forced labor imposed by state authorities.” Several nonfiction books about human trafficking aim to bring global awareness to the issue.

6 Books on Human Trafficking

  1. “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier” (2007). This memoir recounts Ishmael Beah’s time as a child soldier during the civil war in Sierra Leone. After the destruction of his village, 12-year-old Beah flees and wanders the war-devastated land. Later, the military captures Beah. At the age of 13, the military forces him to become a child soldier. Beah was eventually released by the military and rehabilitated by UNICEF. His story discusses the horrific effects of war from the eyes and mind of a child. It also explores the difficulties of adjusting to a normal life after being freed from a forced life in the military.
  2. “I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced” (2009). In 2008, at the age of 10, Nujood Ali was forced to marry a man three times older than her. After enduring months of abuse, she planned her escape. Through local advocacy and support from the press, Ali was able to gain her freedom. Ali became the first child bride in Yemen to be granted a divorce. The memoir recounts the end of her childhood in a tale of survival, persistence and female empowerment.
  3. “Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery” (2009). In this book, Siddharth Kara uses an economic lens to understand the world of human trafficking. Kara “initially encountered the horrors of slavery in a Bosnian refugee camp in 1995.” After, he traveled to several countries across four continents to investigate and uncover the horrors of human trafficking. The book recounts more than 400 stories from both victims and traffickers. Using his history in business, economics and law, Kara breaks down the business of sex trafficking, the most devastating form of slavery today. In contrast to other books about human trafficking, Kara utilizes a technical analysis to educate the reader and offer an explanation as to why and how human trafficking is still happening in the modern world.
  4. “The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade” (2003). In this exposé, Victor Malarek goes inside the world of sex trafficking in Israel where women and girls from across the Eastern Bloc are lured into a life of prostitution with false promises of better jobs and better lives. Instead, traffickers force women into prostitution, strip them of their identities and give them the name Natasha. Oftentimes, their abusers are the very people meant to protect them. Malarek offers a damning account of the horrors of the sex trade and the corrupt systems keeping these women imprisoned.
  5. “God in a Brothel: An Undercover Journey into Sex Trafficking and Rescue” (2011). This nonfiction story describes Daniel Walker’s investigation into the global sex industry. He writes the tales of rescuers from inside trafficking rings. The book discusses the terrifying stories of those saved from sex trafficking, the torment they experienced and their return to society. It also tells the heartbreaking tale of those who continue living in these circumstances. In this book, Walker gives the reader an extremely close and personal look inside the world of sex trafficking.

In order to bring awareness to a global issue, it is important to remain educated and empathetic. These books about human trafficking shed light on modern-day slavery so that the world can do more to address the issue.

– Claire Olmstead
Photo: Flickr

Kenya's Richness and Poverty
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is a writer and academic from Kenya. His story shows the poverty and richness of the world in his childhood memoir “Dreams in a Time of War.” He begins the book about the escape that the act of reading provided him, how it metaphorically satiated his appetite when food was scarce. From his humble beginnings to his role as a human rights activist, scholar and writer, Thiong’o’s life charts a remarkable story that one must dissect to believe. Thiong’o’s story and work illuminate Kenya’s richness and poverty.

About Kenya

Colonizers named the country after Mount Kenya, Africa’s second-largest mountain. Colonized by Europe (like many African states), it is home to over 40 million people. Tanzania, Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan border it and it boasts the third-largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa.

Although it has experienced poverty reduction over the past many years, around 38% of Kenya still lives in poverty, according to 2019 statistics. “The urban poverty rate remained statistically unchanged, and in fact, the absolute number of urban poor increased from 2.3 million to 3.8 million due to high population growth.” The Kenya of Thiong’o’s youth included war, political fodder and burgeoning national independence. The country first experienced WWII, and then the Mau Mau uprising, a war between the British and the Kenya Land and Freedom Army. The story of his education turned out to be emblematic of Kenya’s richness and poverty.

About Thiong’o

He was one of 24 children of his father and four wives. His childhood is an eye-opening blend of scarcity and wonder. Books and literature fed him but he lacked further knowledge. This, he found in his dreams and travels. In England, he studied at the University of Leeds and published his first two novels, “Weep Not, Child” and “The River Between.”

Soon after, Thiong’o had a transformative experience deconstructing the effects of colonization in his country. He began criticizing government interference in university settings and the English department’s lack of cultural relativism. His sustained denunciation of cultural and political matters in Kenya became the reason for his imprisonment under the Public Security Act. This was “for his involvement with a communal theater in his home village.”

Upon his release, he and his family went into exile. They spent the next two decades raising awareness of both indigenous African literature and the political situation in Africa. He went on to teach at Bayreuth, Yale, NYU and UC Irvine. He highlighted Kenya’s richness and poverty on a scholarly and literary level.

His Memoir

After more than 40 years of writing novels and plays, Thiong’o released what he termed a childhood memoir. “Dreams in a Time of War” chronicles both his youth and that of Kenya’s struggle for independence, legitimacy and homeostasis. In his book, he muses about his academic journey, which took him from Kamiriithu to London and the United States and back again.

It details his first train journey, first doting mentor and future dreams. Throughout the 250-page work, one comes to understand a mechanism of Kenya’s richness and poverty; there exists an intuitive work ethic melded with colonial history both of which fight against indigenous culture. Colonization left as a legacy, without proper dismantling of systems of oppression, leaves the hope for serious autonomy of people and culture difficult to maintain.

“Dreams” narrates the devastation of war and the tediousness of colonial bureaucracy. It follows a child on the outskirts of Nairobi enduring poverty. The child finds inspiration to travel to school, educate himself and dream of a life constructed from literature. The transformative effects of the stories he lived and read are similar to the story that his life tells, a circuitous and tireless hero’s journey that is as tragic in parts as it is magnificent in its whole.

Sharing His Story

The book represents a snapshot of a very difficult reality masked by childish wonder. If one wants to understand how a child might react to an environment of colonialism, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s memoir is the place to begin. The George Padmore Institute has archived The Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners in Kenya, of which Thiong’o was an active participant for many years and whose goal was to highlight injustices against citizens, including Thiong’o.

Kenya is a country firmly entrenched in the African economy, thus experiencing triumphs and struggles. Thiong’o’s memoir can teach the world about Kenya’s richness and poverty. It tells the story of a person living in extreme poverty who refuses to concede the human right to dream. It is in this paradox that the book proves transcendent.

Spencer Daniels
Photo: Flickr

Books From the Front Lines
On March 4, 2021, outrage flooded the streets of India after the news of a new honor killing. Honor killings happen when a girl or a woman becomes a victim of murder for shaming her family. Often these women are victims of physical abuse, verbal abuse or sexual assault. Bringing attention to the topic of honor-based killings and violence against women and girls are authors that have either experienced these inhumane acts first hand or reported them. Authors from across the globe are giving women a voice against the violence, honor killings and crimes they may suffer at the hands of family members. Below are four books from the front lines that exemplify the courage it takes to speak against honor-based killings.

“Murder in the Name of Honor” by Rara Husseini

In this book, author Rara Husseini provides real-life accounts of honor killings. One focus of the book is the tragic story of Kifaya. Her brother took her life after he sexually assaulted her. Husseini detailed the family’s indifference to her investigation to garner justice for the girl. In an interview with Kifaya’s uncles, Husseini dove deeper into the mistreatment of the young woman even after her death. “They spoke of her as if they were speaking about a sheep, these men were part of the conspiracy, her body not yet cold yet they were here smoking and drinking like nothing happened.”

As a journalist who commits to the truth at every turn, Husseini does not turn away from a confrontation. She has been fighting the articles and laws that protect murderers like Kifaya’s brother and has turned the story of Kifaya into one of recognition in face of adversity.

“Unbroken Spirit” by Ferzanna Riley

Ferzanna Riley, the author of “Unbroken Spirit,” was born to Muslim parents in Pakistan. She experienced a hard upbringing. The deception and betrayal that she and her sister experienced from their parents led them to return to Pakistan from their new home in London. Trapped in a home that permitted violence, Ferzanna questioned her faith daily. In this astonishing true story about faith, loss and violence, readers can learn about Riley’s strength and her unbroken spirit, despite living in an abusive home.

“Daughters of Shame” by Jasvinder Sanghera

In a family where honor matters more than anything, freedom often means risking it all for a way out. This was the case for Jasvinder Sanghera, who was born in England to seven sisters and one brother. All of her sisters married before the age of 16. When she was 14, her family showed her a photograph of a man they told her she was to marry. This began a series of repeated attempts to get Jasvinder to marry. “Daughters of Shame” recounted Jasvinder’s estranged family relationship after she ran away from home at the age of 16.

“Beyond Honour” by Tahira S. Khan

These books from the front lines are a view into the injustices of honor-based killings. The author Tahira S. Khan takes these insights a step further to examine the causes, motives and political aspects of honor-based killings. Tahira S. Khan is a distinguished professor whose work receives inspiration from experience and academic study. She obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in International studies. “Beyond Honour” goes in-depth to examine honor killings as crimes of historical importance.

Honor killings are crimes against humanity. The repercussions of such horrendous actions are something no family should bear witness to. The group Honour-Based Violence Network brings awareness and action to ending honor killings. Its library includes books from the front lines by authors like Rara Husseini, Ferzanna Riley, Jasvinder Sanghera and Tahira S. Khan. One can access these works of great achievement here to obtain awareness about honor-based killings.

– Nancy Taguiam
Photo: Flickr

Libraries Helping Communities Around the World
Libraries are often the cornerstone of communities. Libraries offer people free internet, resources, events, workshops and books. These resources allow many people to pursue education. In the United States, more people have easy access to libraries than in developing nations. However, there have been libraries helping communities all over the world find creative ways to access the resources a library can provide.

The Zambia Library Service

The Zambia Library Service aims to bring more provincial and public libraries to the country, to improve the libraries in schools and colleges, and to provide more digital resources to educators. This library now has a collection of more than 60,000 books, despite struggling to receive government support. The library service started six provincial libraries that serve about 400,000 individual members and 850,000 institutions every year. Furthermore, it established the Zambia Knowledge Center in 2011 to help provide Zambia’s educators and students with a wealth of online sources from around the globe.

The library continues to advocate for the expansion of copyright laws so that more people can receive access to videos, e-books, audiobooks, journals and websites. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Zambia Library Service aims to provide new opportunities for community members to engage with the library. It hosts movie nights, events for International Girl Child Day and a Girl’s Club.

Bangkok’s The Library Train Project

Police Major General Jarumporn Suramanee started The Little Train Project in Bangkok in 1999. He converted two old train cars into a library and education center. These cars have a school area for classroom lessons and a library with books, computers and a television. Suramanee initiated this project because the number of homeless children in the city had been steadily increasing. As such, it was designed to give children an opportunity to receive an education, a place to stay during the day and options for a better future.

Bangkok’s library train features lessons in typical academic subjects and classes on topics such as manners, sports and gardening. Though children are not required to attend class, many enjoy coming to the library to use the resources it has to offer. Furthermore, the library has aided its patrons in other ways, such as helping individuals find a job or helping homeless children find families who want to take them in. It is also intentionally located in the park so it is as accessible as possible.

Norway’s The Bokbåten Epos

Norway’s The Bokbåten Epos was a boat that aimed to give books and other cultural resources to small, rural, fjord communities. The ship visited 150 small villages in less than a month after it was built in 1959. The boat was designed to hold 6,000 books, but it often circulated 20,000 books at a time. Furthermore, the ship would often bring other events such as concerts and plays—usually the only cultural events these villages would see in a year.

Unfortunately, The Bokbåten Epos shut down in 2020. This upset many Norwegian citizens. However, the government hopes to find a solution that is more cost-effective, environmentally friendly and that can access more areas. The Bokbåten Epos could also serve as a model for other libraries committed to helping communities.

Zimbabwe’s Donkey-Drawn Libraries

A nonprofit called Rural Libraries and Resources Development Programme (RLRDP) started a mobile library project to help provide more resources to Zimbabwe’s rural schools in 1990. These schools struggled to be acknowledged and receive the needed funding. These 15 mobile libraries can hold up to 1,000 books each. Additionally, four donkeys pull these books along to increase the distance the mobile libraries can travel.

These mobile libraries work with communities to tailor services to people’s needs, such as using bikes to deliver books or making more stops if there are elderly patrons or patrons with disabilities. Additionally, some of these carts have solar electricity and internet access that allow access to e-books and educational resources, as well as make it possible to hold movie events. These mobile libraries have helped nearly 1,600 people and have become an integral part of communities.

Many people who live in impoverished, rural areas do not have access to books or other services that libraries provide. These innovative libraries are focused on helping impoverished communities and have successfully helped thousands of people. Efforts like these around the world have the power to transform education in developing countries.

– Mikayla Burton
Photo: Flickr

Books About Poverty in North KoreaThere are countless statistics and facts about global poverty on the internet. While this is very helpful in providing readers with a sense of what is happening around the world, it can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, statistics and facts do not adequately reflect the reality of impoverished nations.  Thus, many people rely on novels to understand the human experiences within impoverished nations. Poverty in North Korea is unknown to most people, and books are a good way to educate readers.

Storytelling relays information and allows people to collect official data. It allows readers to grasp the reality and emotions of others. According to the BBC, personal experiences are paramount in effectively bringing attention to the significant problems around them. The emotional response readers have serves as a catalyst for aid.

North Korea and Poverty

North Korea is a mysterious and unknown country to many people. Since 1948, its population has reached 25 million. As a result of its economic structure and lack of participation within the world economy, poverty in North Korea is prevalent. Approximately 60% of North Korea’s population lives in poverty.

North Korea has a command economy, which is commonplace among communist countries. The government has control over all monetary exchanges, causing the economy to remain relatively stagnant due to a lack of competition between businesses. Additionally, North Korea’s trade restrictions and sanctions have deeply hurt the country’s economy. As a result, the lack of participation has effectively barred the country from growing within the international market. Its economy is vulnerable to collapse and rates of poverty in North Korea continue to soar. Fortunately, these books below strengthen the fight against global poverty by illustrating the suffering that occurs there and showing why action is needed.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee

This novel was published in 2015 and has been universally praised for its ability to convey such deep human emotion in harrowing situations. The Girl With the Seven Names is a biography of the author’s experiences in North Korea. It reflects Lee’s struggle to escape poverty with her family. In this book, Lee describes the horrid treatments and deplorable conditions that she faced living under the current North Korean regime.

Furthermore, she explains how such experiences have emotionally affected her and those around her. This work provides an inside look into the realities of poverty in North Korea. Additionally, readers are able to better understand the living conditions faced by this country’s populace.

The Accusation by Bandi

The Accusation is a series of short stories published between 1989 and 1995. This work is unique being it is not a traditional memoir, rather, it contains small chapters reflecting the everyday lives of those living in poverty in North Korea. The country’s secretive nature has made it difficult to acquire information. As such, Bandi’s work has become one of the very few sources within the country. Bandi has chosen to live within North Korea in order to continue reporting. The Accusation has been given tremendous praise for its honest writing and its importance as a primary source.

Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea by Jang Jin-Sung

Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea is critically acclaimed as an exposé on the way high-ranking officers of North Korea live. Author Jang Jin-Sung was previously the poet laureate to Kim Jong-il. Thus, he obtained access to extremely censored information. In this work, the author and protagonist lend a forbidden magazine to a friend and are forced to flee the country as fugitives. His writing gives an insightful account of how the upper-class lives and how the hierarchical power structure operates.

Additionally, Jin-Sung’s novel discloses the political pressure of working close with Kim Jong-il and the harsh consequences of spreading information. Jin-Sung is able to provide an astonishing amount of valuable information for readers to understand the social injustice in North Korea.

How These Books Help

These are only several books that shed light on people’s experiences and poverty in North Korea. Fortunately, many NGOs and countries continue to sent food and monetary aid to help those living in poverty. The most prevalent of North Korea’s donors are China and South Korea, with China having specifically sent an astonishing 240,074 tons of food to North Korea in 2012. Additionally, the United Nations has received pledges from Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, Norway, France, Germany, Denmark, Finland and Ireland to aid in alleviating poverty in North Korea.

Although North Korea appears to be mysterious and secretive, researching the living conditions within this nation is not impossible. Through the primary sources and biographies reflecting life in North Korea, readers are able to understand human struggles which have occurred in this area for over half a century. Acknowledging poverty and understanding the means to provide aid has motivated many to take action today.

-Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr

Struggles of RefugeesFact or fiction, books are a great way to create empathy and understanding of the real-life experiences of other people. An experience that is not uncommon yet unique to each individual who has lived it, is the global refugee struggle. There are many books that tell the stories of refugees and contemporary fiction books are only one example of a genre that can raise awareness through storytelling. Raising awareness about the struggles of refugees through books and literature helps encourage more humanitarian efforts directed at helping refugees.

Kiss the Dust

Published in 1994, this historical fiction book by Elizabeth Laird takes place in 1991. Tara is a 12-year-old Kurdish girl living in Iraq during a time when conflict was high between Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Kurds. After her father’s involvement with the Kurdish resistance movement, Tara and her family are forced to flee to Britain, where her whole world changes completely. Though “Kiss the Dust” is more about Tara and her family’s struggles as refugees living in London, there is also a lot of focus on the Kurdish resistance movement in 1991 and the trauma that many experienced because of it. There is also an emphasis on overall trauma from war-ridden areas, something that has lasting effects on refugees.

The Red Pencil

“The Red Pencil” was written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and published in 2014. Inspired by a true story, it revolves around 12-year-old Amina living in Darfur, Sudan, in 2003. She nearly loses everything when her village is attacked, and after, she and her family are forced to find a refugee camp on foot. This book describes the struggles of her journey to the refugee camp in Kamal as well as her struggles while living in the camp. Due to the trauma, Amina stops speaking. Eventually, one of the relief workers gives her a red pencil which she uses to begin her journey of recovery. While describing Amina’s journey, the book also highlights Sudan and its prolonged conflicts and wars, showing how many Sudanese people have been forced to flee their homes throughout the years, making Amina and her family only one of many Sudanese refugees.

The Bone Sparrow

Written by Zana Fraillons and published in 2016, “The Bone Sparrow” follows a young boy named Subhi who was born in an immigration detention center in Australia. His mother and sister were part of the flood of Rohingya refugees who escaped their homeland due to the genocide of their people. Because he spent his entire life behind fences, Subhi struggles to curb his curiosity about the outside world. His only access is through his mother’s stories and his imagination. Eventually, he meets a girl on the other side of the fence who contributes to his journey of freedom, imagination and knowledge about the world. Through Subhi’s struggles, the author illustrates the refugee struggle of not having a place to truly call home. The story also shines a light on the Rohingya genocide and the number of refugees created as a result, a conflict still going on today.

In the Sea There Are Crocodiles

Enaiatollah Akbari was 10 years old when his mother sent him to Pakistan from Afghanistan, to protect him from the Taliban, portraying the many years the Taliban have been creating conflict in areas around Pakistan and Afghanistan. Published in 2010, the novel by Fabio Gada revolves around Akbari’s five-year journey as he travels through Iran, Turkey and Greece, eventually ending up in Italy at the age of 15. Throughout his journey, he encounters many hardships. This story highlights a refugee’s journey of loss and rebuilding.

The Good Braider

Published in 2012 by Terry Farish, this book is about a Sudanese family escaping war in their homeland and eventually ending up in Portland, Maine, a place with a lot of other Sudanese immigrants. The community of Sudanese refugees in the United States portrayed in this book shows the impact of the current and previous conflicts in South Sudan. The main character, Viola, struggles to balance the differences between her Sudanese heritage and the culture of the United States. By portraying Viola’s struggles within a Sudanese immigrant community, this book highlights the communal struggles of refugees and immigrants living in the United States.

The Unique Struggles of Refugees

Though the characters are fictional, all of these stories are based on real-life events that forced thousands of people to flee their homes. From war to genocide, each book highlights a unique yet similar set of events that the characters experience, based on their history, setting and context. These different perspectives not only allow people to empathize with victims of history but also bring more of an understanding about the lives of refugees and encourage more humanitarian efforts to address this global issue.

– Maryam Tori
Photo: Flickr