2017 12 ONG kitabna logoKitabna, which means "our book" in Arabic, is a non-political, non-religious creative writing initiative, registered as a non-profit social business in the UK. Since 2014, Kitabna founder and author Helen Patuck has been writing and illustrating multi-lingual children's books for families displaced by sectarian violence in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan and Jordan.

The Kitabna team met in Beirut, Lebanon, at an Arabic school which specializes in teaching the Levantine dialect. Helen Patuck and Maria Chambers were students of Arabic, and Asia Haidar, a Syrian from Aleppo, was their teacher. Together, these three women began to develop a project around Helen’s books: culturally relevant, multilingual stories themed around life in refugee camps and displacement. Our methodology of reading, story-telling and story-writing draws on the Syrian “al-hakawati” storytelling tradition. Kitabna aims to create dignity, learning and fun in the stigmatized refugee experience.

Since starting out in Beirut in 2014, Kitabna has expanded its outreach from the informal tented settlements of Lebanon to the wider Syrian, Palestinian, Iraqi and Kurdish diaspora in Iraq, Jordan, Palestine and Europe. Over 14,000 Kitabna books have been distributed to children in displacement now, including significant distribution with UNHCR, The Norwegian Refugee Council, the International Rescue Committee and Save the Children International.

We now have 7 books in print, with new language editions in Arabic, English, French, German, Turkish, Spanish, Greek, Sorani, Farsi and Urdu. Our latest team member, Federica Margini, works to extend our outreach to displaced children arriving in Europe.

Objectives

2017 12 ONG kitabna 2

Our writing objectives are to create books for displaced communities that can be used as:

  • multi-lingual educational tools to keep reading alive when formal education is unavailable
  • bridges between linguistically and culturally diverse communities
  • naturally safe spaces for children suffering from PTSD to revisit and reorganize difficult memories of displacement
  • sources of hope and inspiration to children and teachers in displacement.

Our training objectives are to nurture the following in teachers and educators living in displacement:

  • a culture of pride and dignity in local storytelling
  • empowered educational leaders and teachers with the skills/knowledge to nurture creative expression in students with creative stimulating activities 
  • key 21st century skills in educational leaders, teachers and students, including imagination, critical thinking, leadership, initiative, collaboration and teamwork

Activities

Since 2015 we have offered Kitabna trainings for teachers, facilitators, education officers and parents. These trainings encompass basic reading, story-telling, story-writing and book-making activities. These have been successful and well-loved across Lebanon, Iraqi Kurdistan and Jordan, and Palestine. They are traditionally delivered by Kitabna author, Helen Patuck, and teacher, Maria Chambers, of the Kitabna team.

2017 12 ONG kitabna 1Kitabna books are available at ICAM l’Olivier bookshop in Geneva. If you would like to share our books and methodology in Switzerland, please contact the team.

Contact

Helen Patuck
Impact Hub Geneva
Rue Fendt 1
1201 Genève

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+41767906301