Sep 23, 2020

Community Radio and Bilingual Stories

Librarians, David and Olga, read on the radio.
Librarians, David and Olga, read on the radio.

In Guatemala, lockdown measures were put in place six months ago in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Since March, schools have remained closed, remote learning opportunities have been limited, and children in Chajul have been confined to their homes. 

Limitless Horizons Ixil opened the community library’s doors 10 years ago, knowing that Chajul's homes weren’t equipped to provide youth with the resources they needed to do their homework and excel in their studies. Most homes lack natural light and have frequent power outages. Many consist of just one room with few tables or chairs, where large families cook, eat, and sleep in the same small space. And while very few homes have computers or televisions, most have a radio.

David and Olga, our dedicated librarians, were distressed when all public spaces had to close after lockdown measures were introduced. Even while the doors of our Saber Sin Límites (Limitless Knowledge) Community Library remained shut, they quickly considered how to continue offering services to nearly 500 library members. At a time when children around the world are connecting to video calling platforms and downloading applications, those from rural, low connectivity regions are often left without access to learning opportunities. But despite unreliable electricity and little access to televised lessons, there is still the radio. 

Just two weeks after the lockdown began, David and Olga had recorded the first of the now 28 and counting bilingual Spanish-Ixil story broadcasts on Chajul’s local community radio. Over the coming months, they would record stories about environmental protection to read on Earth Day and women’s rights for Mother’s Day. David’s favorite story is from the series they have been reading on utilizing our senses, which includes “With my hands” and “With my nose.” He tells us that the story about what we can do with our eyes encourages children to look around them, to see the stars and observe the flowers.” 

David is witnessing the importance of community radio in Chajul first-hand. While he misses pulling out the microscopes for science classes and showing off the vivid pictures in the storybooks he reads aloud to eager learners, he is delighted to still have a way to stay connected to the community’s youth and families. 

“Through our radio story hours, we are able to show library users that we are still with them despite the situation. We are continuing to think of them and haven’t lost the habit of developing their imaginations and encouraging them to read. Based on what they hear us read, they can also be inspired to make up their own stories.” – David, Librarian

While 30 children would usually arrive at the library for our twice weekly story hours before lockdown, the radio broadcasts can reach homes across Chajul and neighboring villages (population 48,000).  David and Olga are looking forward to the day that they can reopen the colorful, painted doors of the library once again. When they do so, they anticipate that even more children will have learned about the library through the radio broadcasts, and they will have new faces arrive, eager to become new members. 

To listen to the stories, please visit our YouTube channel here.

Library members check out books.
Library members check out books.

Links:

Sep 14, 2020

Expanding Educational Opportunities During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Scholar, Elena, studies at her house in Chajul.
Scholar, Elena, studies at her house in Chajul.

COVID-19 has created numerous global uncertainties, but LHI has one thing clear; the pandemic will not detain our determination to nurture a culture of literacy and learning in Chajul.

While some schools and teachers have offered varying levels of remote classes, in many cases instruction has completely stopped. Schools will be closed throughout the rest of the 2020 school year, which ends in late October in Guatemala. Schools closed less than two months into the academic year, and we have been very concerned about learning losses during this time. All of Limitless Horizons Ixil's scholars are at home in Chajul, but given that very few families have computers and all endure frequent power outages, remote learning has been challenging. Of the scholars who have been receiving remote classes from their schools, they had to quickly learn how to access their classes and complete their homework assignments using just a smartphone. In most cases, our scholars have already surpassed the educational level of their parents, and are thus required to self direct their learning while quarantining at home. 

Despite these unprecedented challenges, we at Limitless Horizons Ixil have been able to provide unique educational opportunities for Chajul’s youth. In addition to offering a two-part gender equality workshop in June, ongoing personalized technology support from our Artisan and Technology Coordinator, Cecilia, and one-on-one phone therapy sessions for each of our scholars, we have also expanded our educational programming to include weekly online tutoring in key subjects. Offering remote services has in fact enabled us to broaden our reach; while in-person tutoring was previously only for Limitless Horizons Ixil's middle school scholars, all of whom live in Chajul, virtual classes have allowed us to expand this service to high school scholars, who would normally be attending school in other parts of Guatemala. 

10th grade Youth Development Program scholar, Elena (pictured above), recently shared, “Limitless Horizons Ixil is helping us by providing food baskets, but with book clubs and workshops, they are also providing us with ideas.” 

Meanwhile, our librarians David and Olga have been recording bilingual Spanish-Ixil stories on Chajul’s community radio station twice a week. They are also opening the library for socially-distanced book lending for a few hours every Tuesday, giving Chajul’s youth the opportunity to continue their learning despite school closures.

Now, with the various support programs being offered, Artisan and Technology Coordinator, Cecilia, recently shared that Youth Development Program scholars, "feel much calmer about receiving online classes and they have the confidence to ask about any of their doubts. I feel happy seeing the interest that they have and that their knowledge of technology has increased.” 

We are in constant admiration of our scholars for their dedication to finding innovative ways to continue learning. While they have been dealing with reduced family incomes, strict lockdown measures, and unreliable internet connections, they continue to prioritize their education. 

Thank you for your ongoing support of Limitless Horizons Ixil and of our scholars’ education – you are making it possible for youth in Chajul to access crucial academic and social-emotional opportunities at a time when little other support exists.

Scholar, Marlena, studying at home.
Scholar, Marlena, studying at home.

Links:

May 28, 2020

Zumba in Chajul - Because Women Everywhere Should Be Able to Dance, Move, and Exercise!

A preview of Zumba class!
A preview of Zumba class!

In the days before social distancing and the closure of public spaces, the Saber Sin Límites (Limitless Knowledge) Community Library was a hub for reading, imagination, creativity, and recreation for Chajul’s youth. Since the library’s closure on March 16, our librarians, David and Olga, have continued to offer bilingual (Spanish and Ixil) story hours, broadcasted on the local radio. Meanwhile, our older scholars are taking part in book clubs being led by David and Olga through WhatsApp. We look forward to being able to continue our traditional library programming when it becomes safe to do so.

In the meantime, we are enjoying looking back on some of our favorite moments from the beginning of the year. On March 9, the day after International Women’s Day, a group of girls (and two boys!) age six to sixteen gathered at the library after its usual closing time. They shyly changed out of their cortes, or traditional long skirts, into gym clothes. They giggled in groups as the music was turned on. And, over the course of an energy-intensive hour, they lost their inhibitions and started to jump, hop, and dance across the room.

Our multi-talented Assistant Director Zuly is also a Zumba instructor. She teaches an invigorating cardio-dance fusion of cumbia, salsa, and merengue. This International Women’s Day, Zuly brought Zumba to Chajul’s library users!

In a community with restrictive gender norms and few extracurricular activities for youth, the class presented this group of young people with a liberating new experience. When asked why they thought we were offering a Zumba class to honor International Women’s Day, one of the participants shouted out, “because women are strong!” Another added, “because women can do whatever they want to do!” We began the session with a conversation about women’s rights and representation, and all participants agreed that women everywhere should be able to dance, move, and exercise.

Check out our video of Zumba class and remember, now more than ever, to keep on dancing!

 

Library users on International Women's Day.
Library users on International Women's Day.
The library turned into a dance floor!
The library turned into a dance floor!

Links:

 
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