During the first few months of 2021, thousands of unaccompanied minors crossed the U.S.-Mexico border to legally seek asylum. Fleeing gang violence, poverty, and record murder rates in Central America, over 18,000 of these children are now in Department of Health and Human Services custody throughout the United States. The shelters that house them, primarily run by small community-based organizations, serve as the temporary home for unaccompanied asylum seekers while their asylum claim moves through the adjudication process. In San Diego, over 1,000 of these children are currently being cared for at the San Diego Convention Center. To date, Millie's has provided a Rapid Response Library for the shelter and more than 70 comfort packs for teenage girls at the shelter. Help us reach 200+ more asylum seeker children with a comfort pack to call their own!
We believe in the transformative power of books: not just as educational tools or something to pass the time with, but as vessels to other worlds that are full of possibility. For the 34 million children currently uprooted from their homes, books can act as a critical lifeline during times of psychological stress. Unfortunately, many displaced children don’t have libraries, classroom bookshelves, or personal collections to tap into - instead, they live in book deserts with limited humanitarian investment into their education. We want to change that.
Through book distributions, the rehabilitation of school libraries in refugee communities, and even the installation of our own take on Little Free Libraries, Millie’s Bookshelf is working to mitigate book deserts around the world - one book at a time. And if you’re wondering who Millie is, she’s a nod to the fearless, curious bookworm of our childhood - Matilda! Thirty years after Roald Dahl brought Matilda to life, she continues to motivate millions of children worldwide to dream big, fight for what’s right, and never lose their sense of wonder.
The areas of Iraq that fell under ISIS occupation from 2014-2017 experienced horrific conflict, significant displacement, and for the Yazidi community - a full-scale genocide. While many displaced Yazidis long to return home to Sinjar, targeted educational investments are required to facilitate a dignified return. The trilingual (Arabic-Kurdish-English) Hostler Library at Al Hateen High School will be a sanctuary for children looking to learn and to heal. It will also be the first-ever school library in this disputed territory of Iraq! Thanks to the generous support of American Eagle Outfitters lifestyle brand Aerie and local partner Nadia’s Initiative, the Hostler Library is currently under renovation and will open in 2021.
To date, the Millie’s team has completed book distributions in border communities along the US/Mexico border, in a Syrian refugee camp, at asylum shelters in the United States, and at a pediatric hospital ward in Iowa. In an effort to expand access to books at home, we also launched our domestic-focused Mini Millie’s Bookshelf program - a playful take on the little free library movement that helps fund our overseas work. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we recently expanded our humanitarian offerings to provide food security relief kits in northern Iraq at a crucial time.
To support all of these programs, we have developed partnerships with everyone from Scholastic to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad. The Millie’s team has been recognized with numerous media highlights and awards, including features on MSNBC’s “Good News RUHLES” segment, local NBC outlets around the country, and in The Hill. Thanks to strong partnerships with Nadia's Initiative and the Sunrise NGO, we recently opened Sinjar Province’s first school library at Al Hateen High School in northern Iraq, serving survivors of the 2014 ISIS-perpetrated Yezidi genocide.