In August of 2014, ISIS was on the forward march of their devastating terror campaign across Syria and Iraq. When ISIS militants reached a region of northern Iraq called Sinjar, the indigenous Yazidi people were targeted for extermination due to their unique faith. Over just two weeks, ISIS brutally murdered more than 5,000 Yazidis and enslaved over 6,000 women and children. To this day, over 400,000 Yazidis remain displaced and 2,800 are still missing. As some Yazidis have returned home to rebuild their ransacked homeland, international aid has been severely lacking due to local governance disputes. Genocide survivors have nonetheless stepped up to fill the void, often rebuilding infrastructure and reopening services with little to no external support. This World Book Day, Millie's is hoping to build upon our previous work in the region to establish a children's library at Sinjar Kindergarten. This library will feature books in Kurmanji (the local language) and Arabic and will be staffed by volunteer community members from Sunrise NGO. Help us ensure that every child who walks through the doors of Sinjar Kindergarten is able to develop a love of reading.
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 36 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 displaced 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. In 2021, Millie's Bookshelf partnered with Nadia's Initiative to open the trilingual Hostler Library at Al Hateen High School. Thanks to the hard work of local implementing partner Sunrise NGO, an ISIS-ransacked classroom was given a second life as the first-ever school library in this disputed territory of Iraq! Thanks to the generous support of American Eagle Outfitters lifestyle brand Aerie and incredible Millie's supporters like you, the Hostler Library is now a beacon of hope for high school students in the region.
To date, the Millie’s team has completed book distributions in 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 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. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we expanded our humanitarian offerings to provide food security relief kits for displaced communities in need.
To support all of these programs, we have developed partnerships with everyone from Scholastic to Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. The Millie’s team has been recognized with numerous media highlights and awards, including features on MSNBC’s “Good News RUHLES”, 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.