Spring has sprung. And so has Reading Village! Since our meager beginning with just 6 promoters in 2009, you have helped us reach 75 scholars and more than 10,000 young children. Last year alone two groups of our scholars opened the very first public libraries in their rural Guatemalan villages, and your investments brought innovative literacy activities to 3,000 young children. This is the foundation from which we launched into our fourth community in 2014 and the foundation from which we will continue to grow and deepen our impact in the coming months.
One of the most exciting aspects of our growth is a pilot partnership with Austurias Academy in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Two of our graduates are participating as teaching fellows at this innovative school. They are attending university, learning -- on the job -- the teaching methodology of the school as well as how the school runs. The idea being that at the end of three years they will be able to return to their community and open a school, bringing to their village high quality education that values and empowers young Mayans.
Next week I'm headed down to Guatemala with staff, board members, and Reading Village supporters to catch up with our scholars past and present. During the Learning Journey we'll be sure to send tons of fresh stories and photos your way. Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to catch all the action.
Can you believe it? It’s been seven years since we first went to work in Guatemala and five since we started our Leaders and Readers Program. Five years since we first awarded six scholarships and five years since those first scholars changed some 200 lives. Fast forward to the end of 2013 and I’m struck not only by how fast time has flown but by the growth we’ve seen and the impact we’ve had.
The Children - Thousands of children are growing up loving to read, and they now actively seek out books; this alone will change their lives. But they are also learning vocabulary, comprehension and creative and critical thinking skills, which are not taught in school.
The Teens - We're thrilled to report that 100% of teens who complete our program graduate from high school . And they are transformed from timid and quiet adolescents into bold leaders. Our scholars are not only leaving behind them a generation of readers they are also leading the transformation of their communities in the development of libraries and community centers in their villages – the first ever in their towns!
The Graduates - Our graduates are earning competitive salaries as teachers, librarians, nurses, health workers, literacy promoters, administrators and bookkeepers. And, to our delight, they are forming a network of program alumni to remain connected to each other and further the development of their communities. I am moved by all that these youth dare to accomplish.
The dreams of all the children, teens, and graduates constantly inspire us to deepen our impact. In 2014 we will launch into our fourth community, we will serve 51 scholars and 3,000 children. We will also pilot a fellowship program with the innovative Asturias Academy in Quetzaltenango - the second largest city in Guatemala, about 90 minutes from our partner communities. Two of our alumni will teach at the K-12 school, be mentored in the school's unique methodology, as well as receive scholarships to continue their university studies. This is just the next step in developing leaders who will come back to lift up their communities. It's a great honor, joy and privilege to watch them rise to the challenges in front of them and grow in their abilities.
As the year winds down and we look forward to all that lies ahead, I want to thank you for your partnership in this important work. Happy New Year from everyone at Reading Village!
What does it mean to be a woman in this world?
For my grandmother it meant the right to vote. For my mother it meant the right to work. For me it means the right to choose.
For me, growing up as a girl in America has meant the choice between pigtails or braids, between plaid or polka dots. Later it meant choosing to be a tomboy or a girly-girl, and eventually it meant prom dresses, graduation pearls, and wedding rings. Today, being a woman in this country means that I have the privilege of standing on the shoulders of generations of women before me. Brave women. Proud women. And because of these women, I have every choice I could ever want – when to work and when to marry, who to vote for and what to wear.
When I wake up and choose between flats and heels, between career and family, it is all too easy to forget that women everywhere aren’t making these same choices.
There are places in the world where being born a girl is a lot like losing a lottery. You’re unwanted. You’re a liability. You’re a burden. You may be traded like livestock or abandoned completely. Growing up as a girl in these parts of the world may mean you get married instead of going to school, you have your first child before you can even read and write, you sell your body so you can feed your family. In these parts of the world, being a woman may mean risking your life to get to work, walking through fields where you’re likely to be raped, being in before dark so you don’t risk death. It may mean your parents choose your spouse, your in-laws choose your home, your husband chooses your worth. Being a woman in these parts of the world may mean you have no real choices whatsoever.
The inequity of what it means to be a woman in this world is staggering, but so too is the opportunity before us. Give a girl an education and you give her the time to choose between work or marriage. You give her the capacity to earn a living. You give her the opportunity to achieve her full potential. Every year of education that a girl receives increases her lifetime earning potential by as much as 10%. And of every dollar that the educated girl eventually earns, she’ll reinvest 80 cents back into her family.
Last Friday was International Day of the Girl. Around the world women like me are standing up, joining hands, and speaking out. Stand beside us, won’t you? Here's how:
Thank you for standing beside women around the world. Thank you for caring about our girls in Guatemala.