Bodleian to the BL

By Simon Cloudesley

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5 days. 114 miles. I walked to help bring books and hope to refugees.

I'm Simon and I've just walked 114 miles from the Bodleian Library in Oxford to the British Library in London to raise money for the ECHO Refugee Library, a mobile library that provides books and education opportunities to the refugee community in Athens, Greece.

I volunteered in Greece recently with a refugee charity and the experience moved me deeply. Some go to Greece and stay. Some go and keep going back. No one is the same again. I came into contact with the ECHO Refugee Library and wanted to do what I could to support their work.

Courtesy of ECHO Refugee Library

Why this project?

"Being a refugee may be a defining moment in the lives of those who are refugees, but being a refugee does not define them ... Some of them will go on to be Nobel laureates, public servants, physicians, scientists, musicians, artists, religious leaders, and contributors in other fields. Indeed, many of them were these things before they lost everything."

Patrick Kearon

I love books. I love education. I know that they have the power to bring hope, peace, solace, healing, self-confidence and self-esteem, and to unlock potential. They have the power to change lives. They have changed mine. They may have changed yours.

The ECHO Refugee Library works to provide these life-changing experiences to those in dire circumstances. You can read about their work in their own words below.

Courtesy of ECHO Refugee Library

Why this walk?

The Bodleian and the British Library are two of the great libraries of the world. But their purpose and the purpose of the ECHO Refugee Library is exactly the same: to inspire, to give hope, to cultivate opportunity, whether that's among the dreaming spires of Oxford or on a bustling Athens street. Walking between the two hopefully in some small way showed solidarity with those who have travelled long distances, often on foot, in search of a better future.

What can I do?

Please donate generously. All your money will go towards running the ECHO Refugee Library, and not towards the personal expenses of the team. For example: £20 provides internet for two library sessions. £60 covers fuel for a week. £100 pays for a book shipment to Greece. But anything will help. It will also go a long way in making my blisters feel a bit less painful...

Please spread the word. Share what I have done with others on social media and help raise awareness of this wonderful library...

And finally: this is what I did...

Bodleian Library, Oxford to Wallingford (23 miles)

Wallingford to Reading (17 miles)

Reading to Maidenhead (24 miles)

Maidenhead to Hampton Court (26 miles)

Hampton Court to the British Library, Central London (24 miles)

Thank you for all your support. And remember...

... and books. Courtesy of Me.

*Brilliant campaign artwork by the talented Alan Brown, Bodleian Library.

A message from the ECHO Refugee Library...

We started this initiative after volunteering in Greece for 9 month, first on the islands and then on the mainland. We were so struck by the lack of projects focused on the psychological well-being of people, and their dreams and desires for their futures.

We were overwhelmed by the thousands upon thousands of educated, hardworking professionals and students who were forced out of their education and their jobs by war or persecution, and whose lives were now on hold. Their active minds were being made to lie stagnant for what would become over 12 months of waiting for their asylum applications to be processed. We were determined to change that.

We started this project in October of last year. By the end of last year, we were visiting 7 different locations around Thessaloniki, making our service available to over 10% of Greece's mainland refugee population. We have now moved to Athens where the population is much larger and much more diverse. Here we offer access to online education, books and learning resources to camps, shelters, community centres and squats dotted around the city.

We were delighted to meet Simon, quite by chance, in Thessaloniki earlier this year, where we bonded over our love of literature and the power of books. After meeting Gary (as the mobile library is fondly known) and hearing about the project, Simon said that he was determined to help us. We could not have hoped that it would be on this scale.

We are so honoured to have the support of Simon and so many other generous people from all over the globe - it is only through the generosity of individuals that we have managed to start and grow this project into what it is today.

Thank you so much for your support. Please don't hesitate to get in touch with us on Facebook or [email protected] if you would like more information about the project.

Courtesy of ECHO Refugee Library

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Team Members

Simon Cloudesley