Library in Refugee Camp: Reimagining the New Life

‘For me, the CBP library at the community centre is a sanctuary of peacefulness. Everything around me fades when I start reading books in the library. I forget about the horrifying journey we had from our way from Myanmar to here and the difficulties we face in the camp.’ Mohammed Zubair, a 16-year-old resident of Camp 12, Cox's Bazar, says. He added, ‘It takes me to another world where I can see, feel, hear, and sometimes even smell what the author is describing.’

Zubair lives with his six family members in a crowded temporary shelter. He has always been a keen child, aspiring to learn new things to excel in life. Gaining such opportunities in camp is difficult as there’s no opportunities here for formal education. But Zubair was not the one to give up. He managed to take private lessons within the camp. However, the lack of a conducive study environment in his shelter limited his chance to learn.

When the words about a library opening in the camp spread, it immediately attained Zubair’s attention. It would function as a community centre—a spot for interacting with friends. Zubair was ecstatic thinking of the potential it held.

He exclaimed with joy, ‘Yes! Now I can read new books in the library’. He made it a daily routine to visit the library, bringing his books along. Inspired by Zubair, more teenage boys joined as well, studying together, and supporting each other. They not only engaged themselves in reading but also shared stories with the other children in the community.

Expressing his love for the smell of new books, Zubair voiced a desire for more educational books, envisioning a colourful and vibrant library that would encourage the entire community to read and foster harmony. The Camp 12 library now stores 85 story and educational books. Zubair and other youth of his age enjoys spending their time here.

The library and community centre were established by ActionAid Bangladesh under their CBP project. Its aim is to engage adolescents, safeguard them from trafficking and illegal activities, alleviate emotional pain and trauma, build resilience, and empower the community. Currently there are seven libraries across seven camps. They have proven to be successful, making significant contributions to the betterment of the Rohingya community.