The Ideas Box have arrived in Burundi!

Following 1 year of preparation between the Libraries Without Borders office in Paris, Philippe Starck’s team and the manufacturing workshop, the first Ideas Box have finally arrived to their destination, Burundi!

It is in the rainy season, on February 10th, 2014, that the Libraries Without Borders team arrives in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi. Sylvain, our IT and Engineering Department Head, Delphine and Elisabeth, the librarianship trainers and I are greeted by our Country Coordinator, Benjamin. This is the first time that LWB deploys a mission this substantial for one of its projects.

One year ago, LWB launched a crazy project: the creation of the IDEAS BOX, a unique device that provides access information, culture and information for people affected by humanitarian crises. And we are not the only ones convinced that the Ideas Box can make a difference: the UN Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) joined us to quickly implement the Box in the country identified for their first field experiment: Burundi. So, after 8 months of research and development, 3 months of construction and a few strong arms to lift the prototype onto the transport pallets, we are finally here: the first IdeasBox have arrived in Bujumbura! The next step is to bring them to the camp where the beneficiaries await.

The boxes are on their way to the refugee camps in the eastern part of the country, a 4-hour drive from Bujumbura. Since the early 2000s, Burundi has been hosting refugees from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo whose border is only a few hundred kilometers away. These refugees flee instability and recurring terror in the Kivus region to seek shelter in one of the four refugee camps in Burundi. Among those camps are Musasa, where there are more than 6,000 people, and Kavumu, which opened a few months ago and takes in hundreds of new refugees each month.

When the Box arrive in the camps, we are met with questioning eyes: what’s inside these trucks carrying so many wazungu?

We spend two weeks inclosed session to train the facilitator teams.Discovering tablets, organizing reading activities, handling electrical equipment, multimedia is extremely dense and demands a lot of adaptation to the constraints of the camps.

Curiosity is especially growing in the camp. Arthémon, a 19-year-old refugee from Goma who has spent three months in Kavumu tells me: "We're growing older without a future here. We spend our days at home or we wander through the camp without an aim.We are isolated from the world, we have no books nor internet for information or even to escape our realities for a while.”

It was to the sound of the Burundian drummers that the Ideas Box were inaugurated on February 24 in the presence of local authorities, theUNCHR, the LWB team and especially refugees who finally got to discover this new kind of library. At the end of the ceremony in Kavumu, Arthémon comes up to me and says: "Not only does the Ideas Box distract us, but it also provides us with new opportunities!" This is precisely what we want to offer them...This mission is just the beginning of a 12-month pilot trial that will allow LWB to best adapt the Ideas Box and its contents and make it a true tool of emancipation. To be continued!