Helen Patuck is a storyteller. Her writing and illustrations are magical and full of love, care and compassion for the children she creates for. Our interview for this podcast lasted nearly two hours and was one of the hardest to edit because of all the beautiful stories Helen told me during the recording.
Helen founded Kitabna, a non-profit social business that publishes and distributes children’s books to refugees worldwide, in 2014 while living Beirut, Lebanon. Since then, Kitabna has printed over 17,000 copies of its 7 titles and developed a methodology to train refugee teachers to use its books as a social and educational resource for refugee youth.
In this episode we talk about:
- The origins of Kitabna;
- The power of writing;
- Working with vulnerable communities;
- Creating art and creating social impact;
- The importance of neutrality in humanitarian contexts; and
- How to nurture social change.
Today Helen and her team at Kitabna are working on the digitalisation of Once upon a time in Zaatari and Azraq: tales from our refugee camps, an anthology of stories written by Syrian teachers living in these refugee camps in Jordan. The digital audio book will be available for download on tablets and laptops donated to displaced communities to assist Arabic and English language learning. The digital version will also include touchable “soundscapes” within the illustrations to bring the stories in the anthology to life, with sounds from around the world reaching into the refugee camp classrooms, often set in isolated desert.
The anthology – the latest of Kitabna books – has also taken a message of hope and empathy to the wider Jordanian community. One of the stories is now part of the Jordanian Ministry of Education’s national curriculum and is included in a program that advocates open-mindedness, lateral thinking, problem solving and empathy among teenagers from host and refugee communities.
Check out this short video by Nay Aoun, a Canadian-Lebanese documentary maker, about how children in northern Lebanon engage with one of Helen’s books, The Cat’s Family:
To learn more about Kitabna, visit their website, and you can also find out how to purchase their books here.
If you liked this week’s episode, please take a moment rate and review Meaningful in iTunes or your favourite podcast app – this helps more people to discover Meaningful!
And don’t forget to subscribe to get weekly episodes straight to your device. Thanks for listening!