Jan 16, 2020

Reading at home for a better children health

Riecken Community Libraries are betting that growth of young children is best achieved in a healthy environment, at home, in school and in the community, key areas where critical knowledge and values for life are acquired. The libraries offer best practices for infant feeding through reading programs in coordination with health center programs that are responsible for the height and weight measurement of children and mothers over time, key indicators in child development. The interaction between mothers and parents with the children, against a backdrop of community support is essential to the program success.

The library staff in Chiché seized this opportunity with these mothers and responded directly to the community’s need to address the local challenge of high infant and child malnutrition.  The implementation of reading corners and nutrition issues in homes has been promoted. The community knows about the programs through local media. The current results are:

  • 35 households made family reading, linking 100 children under 5 years.
  • 75 children read in different spaces outside the library.
  • 150 children books provided to households.

While a library may initially not seem to be the best place to address issues of chronic childhood malnutrition, for the past five years many Riecken community libraries have been doing so. The success we witness today is the result of overall collaboration, sharing and mutual respect, among USAID/ASHA, the Riecken Foundation, and local governments, health and education authorities of each community.

 Learn more about the work of the Riecken Foundation and its network of community libraries in Guatemala.


Jan 15, 2020

Alliances for Womens opportunities

In 2019, we completed a five-year Women’s Leadership program funded by our long-time friends, BFB Foundation. Five of our Guatemala libraries have been participating in the program, each with women’s groups receiving training in leadership skills and entrepreneurship. On Tuesday, December 2, a delegation of seven from BFB Foundation met with the Riecken team and representatives of the Riecken Community Libraries that participated in the Women’s Leadership program. Women from those five communities told their stories to our guests, that included Chris Burns-Fazzi, Founder of BFB Foundation. BFB guests visited individual market stands set up by each participating community, showcasing the business initiatives undertaken in their projects.

 With the end of the Women’s Leadership Program, BFB Foundation’s role with the libraries will be changing, and we discussed the sustainability of the project after this year.  As Riecken continues to support women’s leadership development, financial literacy and small business training through the libraries, a new Women’s Group Credit Union has become the focus for these women as a next step. We will miss our working relationship with BFB Foundation, and hope that other program opportunities present themselves for which we may partner in other directions. 

 A benefited women by that project said: 

“I do embroidery with thread, ribbon and wool, and I am in charge of delivering this product to a merchant within the municipal market; During this year, through the support we received, I was able to improve the quality of the product I deliver and extend my skill and knowledge. Approximately I receive earnings $34 a week and this helps to improve the economy in my home since my family is poor. My purpose for the following year is to put a place where my product is sold directly and to train more women so that together we can embroider and generate income and support the library”

This women’s empowerment program is being supported by all “Glogbalgivinners” and BFB Foundation.

The Riecken Guatemala Foundation empowers girls and women through its network of community libraries.

In Guatemala, 90 women have implemented a pilot of Mujeres, manos a la obra. A small step to learn how savings could support the sustainability of their entrepreneurial efforts.

Learn more about the work of the Riecken Foundation and its network of community libraries in Guatemala.


Oct 8, 2019

Libraries for improving children health

Most Central American public libraries are poorly funded, lacking current books/internet, with few or no programs, closed book stacks and restricted book borrowing. These libraries are not welcoming places that encourage local residents to assemble, as they have little relevant information access to allow people to participate in their own development. 

In Guatemala, infant and child malnutrition rates are largely due to mothers’ nutrition knowledge being limited by a variety of factors, including inadequate formal education, extreme poverty, and unhealthy eating traditions passed along through generations.  But within the Riecken library network, library staff and volunteers have access to these mothers, as they would often drop their children off at the library – a safe, respected, trusted place – prior to going to sell goods at the market each day.

For nearly two decades, Riecken Community Libraries has been working to increase literacy in Central America through its network of libraries that are free of charge and open to everyone.  In a region where leisure reading traditionally has been undervalued, Riecken has focused on creating modern libraries as community development vehicles, where literacy – whether reading books or conducting internet research -- is at the core of addressing local challenges.  

Riecken’s libraries are centers for local citizens to meet and discuss local issues, places to identify problems and resolve them.  All of the books, computers, materials, and even the building itself are just tools to provide open and free access to information for local citizens to identify and resolve local community development issues, and engage impoverished, at-risk youth in shaping the future for themselves, their neighbors and families, with literacy playing a central role.

All of the activities conducted at the library promote innovative methods that are not typical in Guatemala, such a developing critical thinking skills and free access to computers/internet, as well as contributing to the advancement of women and girls through women’s business skills training, girls’ reading clubs (targeted at 12-18 year-old girls), and early childhood development/nutrition classes for new mothers. In some communities, Riecken libraries’ informal education programs are the only means for indigenous girls, who are often excluded from attending public school, to obtain any literacy or numeracy education.

The libraries have become places of civic engagement, where local issues are analyzed and discussed, people read and research to identify local solutions together as a community.   Examples of library-initiated projects for the communities include a filtered water pump project for potable water; youth HIV/AIDS awareness training as well as training on reproductive health; online banking and school registration training and access; marketing workshops for local products such as coffee and aloe; and the development of local teacher skills using the library as a base. 

Learn more about the work of the Riecken Foundation and its network of community libraries in Guatemala.


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