Jun 1, 2021

Residents Rejoice on Both Sides of the River

The entire community of Seacacar has good reasons to celebrate. In April residents of Seacacar Abajo (Lower) and Seacacar Arriba (Upper), located on either side of the Sauce River, gathered for an historic event. They came together to welcome visitors, and to thank you, GlobalGivers. During the last two years you have helped provide the high-quality Guatemalan textbooks that local Mayan teens use to study math, language arts, social studies, and science, the first ever educational resources in all the fourteen villages of the Rio Sauce watershed.

But this day was planned for the children in town. On long tables set up in front of Lower Seacacar’s primary school, young students eagerly explored the textbooks, literature, and educational materials selected especially for them. Later that day teachers would carry half of those resources across the footbridge to the elementary school in Upper Seacacar. Now kids on both sides of the river can study beyond third grade, an opportunity never available to their parents.

Paul Heesaker, founder of the town’s middle school, explains: “This event and the donation of books is yet another injection of hope into a community that has suffered a great deal recently. The pandemic and two hurricanes seriously affected a community already marked by extreme poverty… These literacy resources and the soon to be installed RACHEL system (Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning) and computers will give students access to learning even when the government dictates that schools close (due to Covid restrictions). We have dedicated two full time teacher assistants to work with primary school students... I am deeply grateful for the ongoing support of From Books to Brilliance. Your generosity will allow us to continue efforts to end extreme poverty and protect and restore the Sauce River watershed. I look forward to the challenge of (education) reaching every child in the fourteen communities of the river watershed with you. ¡Muchas gracias!”

That day intrigued journalists from three news organizations had many questions for From Books to Brilliance’s liaison, Emanuel Carrera. Indeed, remote villages in Guatemala rarely have access to quality educational resources. How did this happen? Who were the donor organizations? How did the residents react? Emanuel explained that this precious gift was the result of the ongoing efforts and generosity of many individuals and organizations. He then invited everyone to return for the opening of the 21st century library scheduled to open soon in the village. Stay tuned, everyone, for that event. We thank you all!

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Jan 14, 2021

Seacacar Community Library: A Sneak Peek!

A community library for Seacacar, a village where all residents live in extreme poverty, is no longer just a dream. Residents, young and old, are preparing a space which will become the educational center for a dozen Mayan villages in the Rio Sauce watershed. Together the townspeople are carrying buckets of sand up the hill, manually mixing cement, finishing floors, and plastering walls. Bookshelves built with local hands will display books for children, teens, and adults. GlobalGivers, the Q’eqchi Maya thank you.

Paul Heesaker, a Coloradan educator, visited this indigenous village eight years ago. Juan, a local resident, spoke to him of their declining rainforest home, diminishing food, a desperate need for education, and a future for their children. With Paul’s support a beautiful rustic lodge was built. Residents were eager to learn the skills necessary to accommodate tourists. Some cooked while others constructed nature trails and planted over twenty thousand trees. The founding of a middle school strengthened education and offered the local Mayan population a path to literacy. But there were no books.

Weeks ago, the Seacacar town council determined the future of two adjacent, unfinished rooms at the lodge. A well-thought-out proposal with thumbprints and signatures sealed the deal. Community volunteers will oversee and maintain this solar powered 21st century library, offering access to resources rarely available to indigenous villages.

Because of your support, GlobalGivers, textbooks are already in the hands of middle school students. Kinder through sixth graders are reading children’s books and enjoying the educational resources their classrooms offer. When Biblioteca Seacacar opens this spring, students will have access to a digital library using RACHEL, an INTRANET system, created especially for remote villages without access to the internet. Teachers will upload the resources that fit their needs, both in Spanish and Q’eqchí! We look forward to adding literature for teens, tablets for twenty students, and references for visiting environmentalists. Please come to see the Seacacar Natural Reserve and its newest attraction…a library for the entire Rio Sauce watershed. It will be easy to locate. Just listen for the chldren’s laughter.

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Aug 26, 2020

Soup and Stories

Head teacher Emanuel sounded the alarm. “They are down to only tortillas.” It was early May and our friends in the rainforest village of Seacacar had already survived six weeks of quarantine. Worldwide we were given no time to prepare, but for Mayans living in a forest, this virus meant much more…probable starvation. These subsistence farmers plant in mid-May and harvest in September. During the dry season from November to April, the Q’eqchi Maya typically work for larger companies, preparing fields for planting. With those earnings their families eat. But companies were closed; the quarantine stopped everyone. In Seacacar there would be no food for the next three months. From Books to Brilliance (FBTB) and partner organization, the Rios Fund, had to act immediately.

Word went out to Rotary clubs. An online fundraiser garnered enough funds to feed the village for three weeks. Donations continued, ensuring an additional two weeks of food. FBTB liaison Emanuel recruited volunteers, shopped the markets in nearby El Estor, and delivered seventy-five gunnysacks filled with rice, beans, and oil to the village center. Masked citizens gathered with tears in their eyes, signed for their family’s ration, and praised all involved in this effort to feed their community.

Still schools were closed, and endlessly hungry children had little to do. A new program called Soup and Stories, or Leer y Comer, would encourage Seacacar’s youth to continue reading. Parents would cook a nutritious meal and serve everyone participating in this educational activity. The older kids would read stories to the younger ones. Requirements to participate were 1) keep hands clean 2) wear facemasks 3) maintain distance, and 4) bring your own dishes.

We received this update from Soup and Stories Director Emanuel Carrera:

Because of donations From Books to Brilliance in June, the Soup and Stories program was a big success, providing Seacacar communities with opportunity and hope. Although classes were suspended throughout Guatemala due to COVID-19, Seacacar children were able to benefit from a daily 90-minute reading lesson followed by a nourishing meal. Extreme poverty affects almost all Seacacar families, who are without fixed incomes, so the students’ parents were happy, relieved, and motivated to have their children take part. We managed to feed 116 people even though the prices of daily consumer goods were higher than usual because of the coronavirus. We bought our rations from vendors in the village of El Estor, which meant we could help support the local economy as well.

Additionally, (one of your donors) generously sent money for washable, reusable masks for each of the program participants. Everyone wore their masks as though they were "in uniform."  As you can see from the photographs, we put names on the masks, so that if any went missing, we could identify who they belonged to. All involved in the program took every precaution when it came to hygiene, disinfecting their hands and arms with gel alcohol and observing social distancing always. Because the routine was new to us, I will admit it took some getting used to!

Many thanks for your efforts and dedication to the Seacacar community project. Truly everything is part of a chain of aid.

Thank you GlobalGivers! Your continued generosity plays an enormous role in the future of a people, a forest, and a life-giving river.

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