I'm traveling to Guatemala a week from Sunday, and I can't wait to interview the teen reading promoter candidates for 2013 and to see the space the teens in Concepción have acquired to convert to the community's first-ever public library.
Julio César (a promoter who graduated from our program and high school last year) wrote to tell me he thought the space was beautiful. His comment touched me because the space is, quite frankly, hideous. It needs much work, but he already sees it through the lens of his vision. It's already a library in his mind's eye. His ability to envision and create a new future like that is an ability he acquired through his experience and training in our program.
I'll be posting photos and stories during my trip. If you'd like to stay up-to-date on all the inspiring tidbits, "like" Reading Village on our Facebook page.
And consider coming to see the work and meet these amazing teens yourself! Larry and I will be leading a service-learning trip to our communities in Guatemala November 3-10, and we'd love to have you along.
November is an amazing time to be in Guatemala -- especially if you enjoy sunny weather and spectacular sunsets over Lake Atitlán. These trips are a wonderful combination of cultural exchange, sightseeing and service. You'll develop friendships with our teen reading promoters and their families, experience daily life in rural Mayan villages and help our promoters put on a "reading fiesta" for the children in one of our communities. The registration deadline is October 1st. If you are interested, you can find more details on our website and feel free to contact me.
I just spent a couple of weeks in Guatemala and am happily overwhelmed by the changes I see. I want you to know how deep an impact you are making. (For photos, see link below.)
Over and over again, as I interviewed nearly every one of our 30 teen reading promoters, I heard them talk about their reading promotion work in ways that show they clearly understand the profound nature of the work. "My community has changed," said Carlos. "It's not just about reading to children. It's about transforming the whole community."
They see changes in themselves: A teen who is among the poorest of our promoters and who used to feel socially isolated at school said, "I used to cry a lot. The kids discriminated against me, and I felt very alone. But because of the [Reading Village] program I have changed. Now I know I am important. I matter. I am proud. And I am proud to carry my Reading Village book bag."
They see changes in the children they read to: The teens work a theme in a book (for example, discrimination in The Ugly Duckling). They ask children to share examples from the book that reflect discrimination and the teen writes it on the paper on the wall. Then they discuss solutions to the problem. The kids are beside themselves with pride to see their ideas on the wall. Teachers report to the teens changes they've seen in their students -- everything from improved teamwork to greater engagement and grades.
They see changes in the elementary school teachers: Teachers have started using literacy promotion techniques that they see our teens using.
They see changes in their siblings: Little brothers and sisters run around with books in their hands and ask to be read stories.
They feel supported by their community: An adult to a reading promoter, "Where are you going with that book bag?" Promoter, "To read to children." Community member, "Wow! How great that you are doing this! It's very important that our children learn how to read."
Buoyed by all this success, the promoters in both communities are seeking the support of local community leadership to find space for them to create the very first community library in their village.
Your investment in these teens and their work is having an impact far beyond children's literacy. It's transforming entire communities.
Please donate today.
I was eager to connect with "Marco," one of our dynamic reading promoters, on my recent trip to Guatemala. Last November his father – out of the blue – asked him when he would be getting married. Marco is 17. He explained to his father that his studies were his priority. He has two more years of high school left. He wants to finish school, get a job and then get married.
Marco's father got so angry with his response that he kicked him out of the house, telling him he never wanted to see his face again.
He was forced to find housing and a job to support himself during the months of November and December (while school is out of session).
I am happy to report he's back at home, studying and leading reading activities. He is clearly traumatized by the shock of having the rug yanked out from under him. He is afraid he may, again, lose everything without warning, in the blink of an eye.
"All is well right now," I told him, "so celebrate and enjoy that. Don’t get stuck in fear over what might happen. Daniel, Gael, Larry and I are here when troubles arise to help you think of options and solutions." And with that he smiled, hugged me, and I felt his body relax a bit.
Every one of our amazing teen leaders has a story similar to this. They live on a precipice, and even the littlest things can send them right over the edge. Marco's father is not a bad man. He is under tremendous pressure to provide for his large family. And it is largely due to the funds you provide for Marco's schooling that enabled his father to take him back under his roof. Our youth appreciate you greatly and depend upon your support to keep their lives on track.
Your support really matters.
Thank you for your partnership in this important work.