The following is a postcard from Lydia Sorensen, GlobalGiving's In-the-Field Representative in Guatemala, about her recent visit to Limitless Horizons Ixil
Walking into the Saber Sin Límites Community Library in Chajul, we are immediately greeted with hearty “buenos dias” by a giggling trio of kids clutching library cards. Behind them Marilu (one of the three librarians, all of whom are former scholarship recipients) is working with an older group of girls on a school project. All heads are bent together over the table as they carefully copy out a quote on morales (morals) unto a piece of yellow posterboard. The Chajul library isn’t just a place for children and students though, the whole community is able to take advantage of the safe and quiet space for learning.
Places like the library are scarce not just in Chajul but in Guatemala as a whole (the Chajul library is the only one in the Ixil triangle). Marilu explains that they encourage the children and the community to take ownership of the library and feel proud of it. Users receive a library card (and through it access to the library) for only 7 Quetzales a year (less than one US Dollar). They come to the library to do research or school projects (most live in houses that consist of only one room and are often filled with as many as fourteen or fifteen other families members), to use the free internet (almost none have internet at home), read a book, or participate in one of the library’s many programs. One such program is the history story program, where elders in the community to come and tell stories from their childhood (it’s very well attended).
Two young girls in traditional Maya dress (red cortes and blue huipiles) sit at a table in the children’s corner looking over a picture book while taking a break from homework. Outside its market day and the streets are noisy with people selling their products. Inside the Saber Sin Limites Library however the atmosphere is peaceful as Marilu works with the older students to put the finishing touches on their poster before school and boys quietly draw in the back room, an oasis of reading and exploring in the hectic town of Chajul.
A warm greeting from Chajul where our library continues to flourish thanks to your support!
Last week, to celebrate the now 1,400+ members of our Saber Sin Límites (Limitless Knowledge) Community Library, Limitless Horizons Ixil threw a party for all, a fiesta de carnets (library card party). With the help of visiting volunteers from Belmont University in Tennessee and our committed librarians, we organized an afternoon of games, stories, theatrics, and snacks for our growing community of booklovers.
Our hope was that the fiesta de carnets would both celebrate literacy and attract new members, and would also be a fun a cultural exchange between the students from Belmont and the kids of Chajul.
The day kicked off with a reading of Where the Wild Things Are (in Spanish!), complete with a riveting reenactment of the story. The kids were simultaneously thrilled and terrified by the ‘monsters’ from Belmont. Our enthusiastic and inspired volunteers then set up six stations offering a range of games including basketball, duck-duck-goose, musical chairs, hopscotch, jump rope, and dodge ball. We divided the kids into groups and rotated them through.
The room echoed with delighted shrieks and competitive yells for the next hour as both groups threw themselves into the activities. The day ended with cookies and atol de arroz con chocolate (a traditional hot drink made from rice and chocolate) for our tired volunteers and delighted Chajulense library members.
The fiesta de carnets was first and foremost a celebration of literacy. Like our ‘Reading Adventures’ initiative we described last time, the party was an opportunity to reward our library users and cultivate a positive correlation between reading, study, and communal enjoyment. We strive to create a community within our library by establishing a network of readers who support each other and who can learn and play together. This helps attract new members and also gives our current users an appreciation for education, for reading, and for shared learning and growth.
Thanks to your support, our library continues as a center of learning and community involvement in Chajul. We will continue to keep you updated on our exciting activities and developments in the coming months.
On behalf of the LHI team
Last week marked the end of “Reading Adventures,” a special 2 months of vacation activities in the Limitless Horizons Ixil Saber Sin Límites Community Library in Chajul. (In Guatemala, the long vacation between school years starts in October). Every day, kids flocked to the library to read together and read alone. The kids who came regularly were rewarded last week with a special gift—a book all of their own, the first many of these little ones have ever owned!
One of the most memorable and exciting activities during Reading Adventures was our “field day.” Sixty-six young kids from the library joined hands (each with a partner) and moved en mass down the dirt road to a local school’s big empty field, with our librarian Marilú, program & library manager Edilma, volunteer Meg, a group of older Youth Development Program participants, and myself helping to supervise and organize. All we needed was each other, the great outdoors, and a few activities. Between smatterings of rain underneath a cloudy sky, we had ourselves some fun. Marilú and Meg had planned a treasure hunt for the day—an educational treasure hunt. We were divided into 5 groups with a staff member or volunteer, an older LHI youth, and 14 kids in each group. My team was “the insects.” We hunted for a box of questions in the field, and opened it to discover questions about insects! All of our little teammates put our heads together to write down names of different insects, parts of their bodies, and places where the insects could be found. When we rejoined the larger group, each team took a turn presenting our discoveries—and each of our kids performed a demonstration of a type of insect they had found in the field. Our 2 tiniest members—sisters, smaller than all the other children, who had stuck close together all day—embodied little ants and wandered around the large circle of kids “attacking” the other little ant children! Screams and giggles made their way around the crowd. It is your support of our library that allows us to make educational activities like field day happen. Your donations also allow us to provide training resources and mentorship to our librarians and local staff so that they can develop their own expertise and creativity to nurture our children. Your gift allows us to continue giving these kids a space for expression, opportunities to grow and develop, and the chance to create fun memories.
Happy holidays and thank you, from the children and library members in Chajul.
Thanks to you, our generous donors, Limitless Horizons Ixil has received fantastic support in 2012-2013 for the early childhood literacy programming in the Saber Sin Límites Community Library. So we're writing to update you on how things continue to grow and how the library is doing overall! The funding we’ve received through our campaign has allowed our local library team to further develop our services from literacy materials, a space conducive to study, academic support, and literacy programming in the library.
The library has had a great growth spurt in recent months! Our local staff led a number of publicity initiatives in Chajul schools to spread the word about the library services offered and the response has been overwhelmingly positive—173 new users registered in June alone! (In our last update, we reported 70 new users in March—so this increase in sign-ups is huge!) Thanks to recent donations from partner organizations and individual donors, the collection of books also continues to grow. The number of registered users is now almost 1,400 and the number of books in the library is greater than 5,000.
Riding this wave of growth, we are focused on deepening the impact of our early childhood literacy program to have the fullest benefit to our youngest library users. Most of our regular users are under the age of 8, the age at which most students in Chajul start school. So, their time in the library is a highly influential introduction to literacy and education as well as an opportunity to bridge educational gaps left by the under-funded and under-resourced local school system.
Story Hour and Reading Club activities provide young readers and pre-literate children structured exposure to the Spanish language and focused comprehension practice. Combining this with creative interaction opportunities such as accompanying art projects allow youth an engaging activity outside of school hours where they can continue to learn, fostering a love of learning.
Our greatest success in the Saber Sin Límites library is certainly its fast-growing popularity among youth in Chajul—there are 50-200 people in the library at the same time during popular activities! This is also the root of our greatest current challenge because of demands on our limited resources.
Looking forward, we are working hard to make the remainder of 2013 a defining period for our library, with improved structure for all library visitors, better time management for our librarians to continue to provide a high level of individual support, and a deeper engagement with early childhood literacy and education methodologies to take full advantage of youth engagement and further develop the positive impact of our programs on education.
Thank you for your continued support and interest in the progress of Chajul’s only community library!
Dear friends of the "Saber Sin Límites" Community Library in Chajul,
March and April were exciting months for the library—the only one that serves the small community of Chajul in the Ixil region of Guatemala. Here are a few of the great successes you helped us achieve:
Opened the attached for details and photos, as well as an update on our Youth Development Program.
In more somber news, Chajul has received international attention recently as former Guatemalan president Ríos Montt has been charged with genocide for massacres that happened in Chajul and nearby communities. Online journal The Globalist published this article by our team member Laura Myers about the perspective from Chajul and what Limitless Horizons Ixil is doing to help the community repair and rebuild.
If you're interested, feel free to reach out and we can send more articles and resources about the trial. But the best way to learn is to come experience Chajul. We'd love to invite you to come meet us here in August! Learn about our "Discover & Serve" trip here.
Let me know if you have any questions or just want to say hi. You make our work possible and we love hearing from you. Thank you for your support!
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Operations & Development Associate