Closing Reception of the Ideas Box Bronx Project

September 15, 2015 | By French Culture

On Friday, September 11, 2015, Cultural Counselor Bénédicte de Montlaur congratulated the education-focused NGO Biblothèques sans frontières on the successful completion of their three-month Ideas Box installation in the South Bronx. The Ideas Box is portable media center containing books, films, computers, tablets, games, and remote internet access to hard-to-reach communities. The closing reception was held at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York.

Good morning everyone! 

As Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the closing reception of the Bronx edition of Ideas Box. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to show our support for this amazing project.

Ideas Box is an inspiring initiative of Bibliothèques sans frontières that brings cultural and digital resources to underprivileged communities around the globe. Today, we have the chance to recognize your transformative work in a room full of entrepreneurs, teachers and members of the tech community.

I am honored to welcome two exceptional individuals – Patrick Weil, visionary founder and president of Bibliothèques sans frontiers – and Allister Chang, the new Executive Director for Libraries Without Borders in the United States. I’m really happy to see both of them here.  Patrick and I met in Paris a few months ago, and we have many mutual friends who have told me of his excellent work.  I can clearly see it through the Ideas Box project.  

The Ideas Box is a model example of what can be achieved when technology and culture unite. At the Cultural Services, we share your objective to bring culture to as many people as possible, especially people who are in difficult situations. We also share the conviction that uniting digital innovation with creativity will help us find solutions to today’s problems.  This is exactly what Ideas Box is about: creating a travelling multi-media center in a box, one that you can take anywhere and use to give anyone access to a world of creativity, education, and culture.

It’s not only useful, but also beautiful; as you may know, this box was created in association with the French designer Philippe Stark. The BSF project delivers an enormous amount of content: One box holds 100 films and 5000 e-books. But the Ideas Box is more than a mobile library; it is a way to connect displaced and disadvantaged groups to the wider world. This project is a shining example of the power of art and technology to address important gaps in our society.

We are very happy that the Ideas Box spent a summer in the South Bronx, where it touched thousands of families – thanks to the local partners here – and involved local nonprofits such as the NYPL. Hundreds of young people participated in educational workshops in computer programming and documentary filmmaking, thanks to the Ideas Box.

At the Embassy, we are also very impressed by the work that Bibliothèques sans frontiers and Ideas Box are doing around the world. In February, in partnership with the United Nations refugee agency, the first two Ideas Boxes arrived in Congolese refugee camps in Burundi. Currently, Ideas Box is serving Syrian refugees at the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan. Having been stationed for three years at the French Embassy in Syria, aid to Syrian refugees is personally very dear to me.   

Their work there is very important both to the children and adults who don’t have access to essential stimulation and culture.  Their work is very timely, and I hope it will extend to Lebanon, Turkey and even further in Europe.

France and Bibliothèques sans frontiers share a common dream to provide access to culture and humanitarian aid to populations around the world. On a global scale, this year is very important because the United Nations will be renewing its MDGs or Millenium Development Goals.  Achieving these goals will be crucial for the agenda of development, and France will also be playing a broader role with respect to collaborating with other nations and supporting developing countries. 

On a smaller scale, as the French Cultural Services, we try to do our part to bring culture and education to all sectors of the population.  We do this through many programs, but I want to underline the French Dual Language Program, which helps francophone kids from Haiti, West Africa, and other French-speaking nations remain connected with their roots while they are here at schools in New York, Miami, Boston, or elsewhere. And our French Dual Language program in American public schools similarly provides a bilingual learning track for kids and new ways to connect with the wider world.

We share BSF’s conviction – and all of yours – that education and access to culture are essential in life.  We can offer these necessities to a wide audience by using innovative new tools of digital culture. Thank you, Patrick Weil, and thank you, Allister Chang.

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