2016 has been a year full of surprises for me personally; it was a year during which I had the chance to accomplish some of my wildest dreams, I continued my studies, I successfully passed the exams for the Life Coaching Certificate, I was nominated to coordinate Greek Certified Translators’ Association Mentoring Program. But what made 2016 so special to me was the honour I had to voluntary participate as a Greek translator in the “Jamil & Jamila” project.
What is the Jamil & Jamila project?
“Jamil & Jamila” can be characterized as a Dutch initiative, but it has an effect all over Europe and all countries that have any kind of relation with the Syrian War and the refugees. It is a children’s book regarding the life of young refugees in refugee camps, describing the everyday life of these two children in a refugee camp. The source text is in Dutch. The author and illustrator decided it should be translated in other European languages so as to raise awareness regarding young children facing difficult situations in their lives, to fight against racism and xenophobia. All translations are available on the publisher’s website along with the original Dutch book.
In the first book we are introduced to Jamil and Jamila when Jamila first meets Jamil.
In the second book we realize that Jamil and Jamila are both homesick for the world before the war.
In the third, and last book of the series, Jamil and Jamila leave to travel to Europe.
The series will not be continued, but Elsbeth is bound to create other characters to help us understand what the war means to children…
But how did the project begin?
Elsbeth, one of the authors of the book, had been translating about the Syrian War and refugees. One day she had a talk with the president of an organisation that helps refugee kids who told her, that there were absolutely no books for the children in the camps. He asked her if she could write one that could help the children to overcome their trauma (by that time Elsbeth had already written several children’s books). She said ‘yes’ and asked if it was okay to involve Esther, illustrator of the book, in this project. Elsbeth asked Esther to help with the drawings. She already knew that Esther had written books for children and Esther owns a publishing house, that could be helpful.
A few words about the authors:
Elsbeth is a German/Dutch translator and teacher. She teaches ‘Dutch as a foreign language’ at a refugee school, and German and, when there is time left, she writes books. She has two children and a grandson and she is happily married.
Esther is a civil engineer who studied technical management at university. She is also a coach for children. She likes writing and painting. Her publishing house focuses on books that are important for the development of the readers.
How did I get involved?
Well, I have the honour the be the translator for the Greek version of the book. It was, if I remember right, early summer when I was asked by an esteemed colleague – Ellen Singer– if I could undertake the translation of the book from English into Greek along with another translator – Leandra Zoulfoukaridis, who edited the translation and helped with any misconceptions between the English and the Dutch version of the book. I have to admit that it was a challenge to me, not only because it is out of my expertise, as I do not translate books for children on a daily basis – but also because it is related to a very sad story, i.e. the life of two Syrian children in a refugee camp. There were several times while I was translating that I was emotionally affected. It is a very touching story that can leave no one untouched.
Why is that important to you?
We live in a country directly affected by the sad consequences of the War. According to the Refugee Agency of the UNHCR 172,885 refugees have arrived in Greece and the Refugee Crisis Management Coordination Body’s data shows that there were 57,042 refugees in Greece in June 2016. This book could help people in Europe to understand the problems that the children in the refugees’ camps face every day. This type of book stimulates empathy and awareness towards refugees and fights against fear that leads to racism and xenophobia. This will make it easier for the Syrian children to become part of the, for them, new society, their inclusion will be smoother.
What can you do to help?
You can actively form part of a fair Society that promotes solidarity and equal treatment for all people.
Regarding the book, the money collected from the sale of the Dutch and translated books and some of the Droomvallei publishing house own capital is allocated for the publication of the books in Arabic to be distributed to children in refugee camps’ schools. Children who have little to call their own are given a book of their own. By buying the Jamil and Jamila books, we can help children in refugee camps to read, to be educated. Plus, these books help them overcome their trauma and rebuild their life, according to psychologists.
The book is available online in several languages: https://www.droomvalleiuitgeverij.nl/product-categorie/other-languages/
You may find the Greek version here.
Would you like more information?
Please do not hesitate to contact any of us if you would like to receive more information.
To learn more about the project and the book’s authors you may read their interview on:
Many many thanks to Mrs. Ellen Singer, as without her intervention my contribution to the project wouldn’t be feasible, to my esteemed colleague Mrs. Leandra Zoulfoukaridis for the excellent cooperation. I am grateful to have been trusted by the authors with regard to the quality of my work. I wish Esther and Elsbeth the best of luck in their project and I look forward to contributing in any other way needed to such an honorable project.
Written by: Virginia Katsimpiri
Reviewed by: Ellen Singer