Diakonia - People change the world
Hanaa al-Ramli's book project started as a simple idea in Jordan, but has since spread to many other countries in the Middle East, providing many children with the possibility of reading. Photo: Claes Herrlander

Hanaa al-Ramli – fighting for children's right to read

Hanaa al-Ramli is a passionate change maker who is working courageously alongside others so that people living in poverty can gain power over their own lives.

11/5/2013 Publisher: Magdalena Ackeberg

Books called out to her

Hanaa al-Ramli remembers in detail the first time she entered a library as a child. She describes it as an almost religious experience – how the door was opened to a strange inner light and how it felt as if the books called out to her to touch and flick through them.

Opened 27 libraries in Jordan

In the space of just a few years, Hanaa al-Ramli's project "Kitabi Kitabak" – "My book is your book" in English – has opened 27 libraries all over Jordan. Over a thousand volunteers inspire children by giving writing courses and reading aloud, take them on outings to museums, organize summer camps, and much more.

"Everyone, whether rich or poor, has the right to knowledge. And when we’ve achieved this, people will be more aware of their rights – and able to claim them. Knowledge is the key to this," Hanaa al-Ramli maintains.

Presented idea on Facebook

Hanaa al-Ramli got the idea for the project when her two sons grew out of their children's and teenage books. Why not set up libraries in poor areas using second-hand books, she thought, and presented her idea on Facebook.

"The response I got was beyond my wildest dreams. Fifty people came to the first meeting and within three months, we had collected 5,000 books and were able to start our first library," says Hanaa al-Ramli.

Run by local change makers

The library was opened in July 2009 in one of Jordan's most vulnerable refugee camps in Jerash, Gaza. Since then, libraries have been opened in a large number of refugee camps and poor areas all over Jordan, all of them staffed by local change makers who work on a voluntary basis.

"During the first few years, we worked with no budget whatsoever. I enjoy the challenge of showing how much you can achieve without money just by working together," says Hanaa al-Ramli.

Internet and social media skills taught

In the El-Hussein refugee camp in Amman, a donation has just made it possible to buy computers for a new activity: teaching computer and internet skills. Young people learn how to express themselves through social media and their own blogs. Hanaa al-Ramli hopes to spread this new activity to the other libraries.

All children can influence their future

"The situation for children and young people in refugee camps is very tough. It’s been my dream to be able to help them, to give them the best possible future. It's what they deserve," says Hanaa al-Ramli.

"There is so much power and energy among these children. They all have the potential to influence their future and have a decent life."