I never expected that we'd see it this soon, just two and a half years after beginning in Concepcion, but there it was right in front of me -- the birth of a new generation of leaders in this community.
Sunday, after Daniel and I had wrapped up the training session with our fifteen teen reading promoters, Marcela (one of the teens) told Daniel the group had something to tell us. I have to say I felt a bit nervous as the mood was serious and they all seemed to know what this was about.
Marcela then announced that they all met the day before and formed their own action committee with a president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer. They've created such a love of and demand for books in the children they read to they now see the need for a library. And by their own initiative they formed this committee in order to begin to make that happen -- with our blessing and promise of support.
I was so choked up I could barely respond. THIS is what the work is about for me -- the development of local leaders that will create a new future for their own community.
Please continue your generous support with a donation today. You are making a difference!
Youth rise to the expectations that we hold for them. Here at Reading Village we see it every day in our teen reading promoters. And it's one of the greatest satisfactions of my work to see them become more than they ever thought they could be. So it makes me sad when I hear of adults grossly underestimating the potential of young people.
Daniel Guzmán our In Country Director just came back from a conference in Guatemala City that was filled with teachers interested in techniques to better teach reading and writing. As he explained to those he met about the work he does, he realized that they don't believe in teens the way we do. They could not imagine that high school students would be responsible or capable enough to be successful at promoting literacy in the ways they do in our program. So I am very appreciative of your belief in and support of our teens. Your donations are an investment in their futures. And on March 16, any donation you make on our GlobalGiving web page will be matched 30%. Mark your calendar!
Thank you for all you do to bring the power and joy of literacy to children.
I remember vividly just two years ago our first meeting ever with the first teen reading promoters in Concepcion. Julio Cesar's beet-red face belied his embarrassment at having to crow like a rooster whenever it came up in a story being read aloud. It was so challenging for him I wondered to myself if he'd ever be capable of reading a story in front of a group of children.
In contrast with last Sunday...With no advance notice, I asked the group of teens to take twenty minutes to organize themselves into a schedule of reading activities they would lead in the next two weeks. I watched with delight as Julio took the lead and got the job done. He did this with such self-confidence, grace and effortlessness it brought tears to my eyes. (Enjoy photos from Sunday's activities here.)
There was actually a moment in the meeting when I had to invite Julio and the other teens with experience to hold back a bit and allow some space for others to participate. These, the kids for whom it felt like pulling teeth to get them to say anything just two years ago.
They are coming into their own, it is a beautiful thing to witness, and I am honored and delighted to be a part of it. And now hundreds of children are discovering the joy of reading as a result. Thank you for all you do to help make this possible.
Twice a year we invite a small group of people to join us on a Learning Journey in Guatemala to really get to know our teens, their work and to spread the love of reading right alongside them. The dates for the next trip are June 23-July 1 and spaces are going fast. For more information visit www.readingvillage.org/learningjourney.
I hope you'll join us,
I'm in Guatemala interviewing teens for our reading promoter program. It's one of my favorite things to do because these youth inspire me so much. Take Teresa Morales Chumil, for example. She is 15, the oldest of four, and her family owns no land so they work as day laborers on someone else's land. Teresa's family of six ekes out a living on $120 a month; that's less than a dollar a day per person.
Her parents never attended school and cannot read or write. When I ask Teresa what her parents tell her about the importance of education she says her father tells her, "You have to fight to study." This phrase stops cold in my heart. It's true. Teresa and other impoverished youth here fight: struggle, sacrifice, toil and scrape enough together to pay for public school registration, monthly fees, transportation, uniforms, books, supplies and the like. What should be a right for every child is a fight for many. And in these communities where only 25% of children make it to the sixth grade, it's a fight that most kids lose.
Despite all the barriers in front of Teresa she has made it to middle school and has set her sites on college! This Thanksgiving I am grateful that Reading Village can offer her the opportunity to stay in school. And I am thankful for your generosity toward Reading Village that makes it possible.
If you have not made a donation yet this year, please know that gifts of all sizes have an immediate impact on our teens' lives and the children they read to.
For you and me, who love to read, it's hard to imagine an entire country where reading is not much valued and not regularly enjoyed. But this is the case in Guatemala. A colleague once heard it reported that of the Guatemalans who can read only 1% had read anything for pleasure that year. So imagine my delight at what happened the other day...On October 1st Guatemala celebrated Día del Niño (Children's Day), and Daniel Guzmán our In-Country Coordinator and some of our teen reading promoters made their way to Concepcion's central plaza with the rest of the community to celebrate. And they each brought a book along...just in case.
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