Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador

by Corporacion Grupo Randi Randi
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center for Earthquake Victims in Ecuador
Cultural Center
Cultural Center

Dear friends:

We are very happy to announce the successful compliance of the construction and furnishing of the Cultural Center for earthquake victims in the little fishing village of Don Juan, Manabi-Ecuador.  Together with your generous donations we have finished constructing a seismic resistance beautiful bamboo building. The Cultural Center stands in the middle of the village and is house to the library, the training center,  workshop area, volunteer lodging and gardens. The library is equipped with 3.500 books, 10 computers, 6 professional photo cameras, video, tv and other training equipment. With the cooperation of international and national volunteers the Cultural Center opens on a daily basis offering the following programs:

  • Reading remedial program
  • Homework assistance
  • A day in the LIbrary (grade school comes to the Library)
  • Engilsh classes in the local grade school
  • English classes for adults in the Library
  • Tae won do for girls
  • Photography workshop for girls
  • Continued education for adults (in coordination with the Ministerio de Eduación)

All our efforts are starting to show results:  children and women gather in the Cultural Center to resolve their homework, read with friends or browse through encyclopedias and the internet.  The Cultural Center and Library has proven to be a safe haven for all who come, specially children and women. This is a place where they are treated with warmth and respect, were their curiosity is valued and their opinions matter.

We are proud of what we have achieved and are ready to take the next step.  We are going to focus on our Library Bus

https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/library-bus-for-northern-manabi-coast-ecuador/

With a library bus we will be able to take all the successful projects to other remote villages in our surroundings.   We very much appreciate your continued support and will enjoy having you on board with us on this next challenge.

Your recurring donations will roll over this new effort.  Keep in mind Giving Tuesday (Nov 27) when Global Giving will match 100% of your donations. Please consider sharing our information with friends and family:

www.amanomanaba.org  and follow us on FB https://www.facebook.com/amanomanaba/

 

with gratitude

 

Rut Roman

Art mural painted with the kids
Art mural painted with the kids
Reading
Reading
With friends...
With friends...
volunteer lodging
volunteer lodging
Rut & Esteban, Founders
Rut & Esteban, Founders

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Biblio burro
Biblio burro

While growing up in the United States in the 60´s, my first encounter with a Library Bus defined my choices in life. At age 57, a tenured Latin American literature professor recently returned to Ecuador, I found myself in the center of the catastrophic earthquake that hit Manabi. Surrounded by children whose lives had been turned upside down in the small fishing village my husband and I had made our new home, my first response was to set up a reading hour every day as a coping mechanism for the community. 

Alliance for Progress, the program that JFK instated after the Cuban Revolution to create bridges between North and South America, greatly influenced young Latin Americans. When I was a kid, growing up in quaint, small Ecuador, I felt it through my teenage sisters. They would come back from school excited about the possibilities of exchange student programs that had just become available to people their age. Coming from a large and traditional Ecuadorian family, all this fuss about travel and leaving your family to have international experiences sounded like such an enticing adventure and became the main topic of conversation at the dinner table. One day my father decreed, “enough is enough, no daughter of mine leaves my protection until married, if you must learn English we will do so as a family”. So that´s how my father packed us all, including pets and aunties, and brought us all to Silver Spring, Maryland. And that´s how I discovered the power of libraries.

It was 1967, we immediately got our green cards, and we all went to school across the street. I was sent to second grade. There were no ESL programs back then, and my second grade teacher, not knowing what to do with me, sent me off to the library where I spent my days browsing illustrated books and playing with puzzles. Mrs. Patterson, the plump, warm librarian at Cresthaven Elementary School, didn´t have any Spanish books to give me, so she called the Library Bus. When the big red Library Bus came, I was in awe. It had come all the way to my school just for me! The librarian in the Library Bus gave me a bilingual book and after I read it in Spanish, he read the English version for me. I was immediately fascinated by books. Since then they´ve always rescued me from bleak times. They still speak to me directly and are more intimate than my best friends; they offer representation of the emotions I lack vocabulary to express. These intimate friends are articulate, honest, fun: with them, I¨m at home.

The day the Library Bus came to my school a door was opened for me: The secular sanctity of a Library, a place where you can sit and enjoy the serene ambience of silence and respect, you can read comic books or Cervantes, you can daydream or get serious work done. But above all a library is a safe place, a place where as soon as you enter, you feel smart. This is what was offered to me when I was 7, and it has never failed to be there for me. A library is a non-religious temple, a sacred place where you can spend long afternoons reading, daydreaming, or just sitting there, a place that will receive you when you´re feeling vulnerable, a sanctuary where you’ll never feel inadequate.

Many years later I became a Latin American Literature Professor and after 15 happy and productive years of teaching at several American universities, my husband and I decided to return to Ecuador. Our mindset upon our return was to do what makes us happy: Create a Library -or book sanctuary if you will- in order to share the gifts of reading, thinking and writing with our neighbors in a small remote village of Manabí province.

In April 2016, I found myself amidst the rubble and mud left behind by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit our home and left us, along with 35,000 other residents of Manabí, homeless and wondering how to move forward. Once again, a “Library Bus” came to my rescue. Having no resources at hand but our still baby donkey “Domingo,” my husband and I decided to pack his pannier with books and games to transform him into a “Biblio Burro.” We plodded down to the beach ringing a bell and calling out, “!No se queden burros, vamos a leer!” There was an immediate response from the children of our small fishing village. They all were eager to get away from the terror of the aftershocks and the trauma at home. They longed for activities that would take them away from the bleakness of the catastrophic landscape. That is how A mano manaba “Biblio Burro” started. Since then, we have been hard at work organizing, funding, constructing, furnishing and operating the Children´s Library in Don Juan.

Two year later we have funded A mano manaba an NGO that is bettering the lives of our neighbors through educational programs. We now stand in the center of the town in a seismic resistant bamboo building that houses the Children´s Library; crafts workshops; dance and martial arts training space; permaculture gardens and traditional clay oven. We´ve been successful on GlobalGiving thanks to your contributions.

We can now share the exciting news of the 2018 Literacy Award by which the Library of Congress has crowned our efforts to create a lettered environment in a tiny secluded fishermen’s town. We receive a wide array of young and talented volunteers from around the world that come and stay in our Intercultural Center for several months to teach: English, Math, Science, Art or Sports. Our doors are open for everyone that wants to come in from the sun and the tediousness of everyday routine to sit and “play” with the books and learn something new; nevertheless our main target are the girls age 10-12 we believe they are the most powerful motor of change in this patriarchal setting and at the same time the most vulnerable population within it. Our endeavor is showing its fruits: our remedial reading program has increased reading and comprehension in the local school; our volunteers teach English 3 days a week in the local school offering experiential teacher training; our book loan is operational; our patrons engage with the different art,- children painted a stunning art mural under the guidance of Hsuan-Ying Chen, a conceptual artist form Taiwan; we worked on a recycling project with students from West Lafayette High School, or sports projects soccer team for girls; Photo club for girls. Kids love to join in with whatever project volunteers put forward. In general children in Don Juan are more lively, curious and proactive with their surroundings. In my daily run at the Library I can sense that this is a safe haven for the children, especially girls and women, who need to spend their afternoons reading, drawing, and talking about their fears and struggles as a vulnerable population moving forward in a post disaster zone.

In the first days after the quake, trucks carrying emergency relief kits and volunteers stopped along the main highways, at villages like Don Juan, leaving remote interior villages to fend for themselves. During those first days, my husband and I made runs to interior villages that had been neglected, to deliver the extra kits that had been dropped off in Don Juan. Having witnessed their abandoned condition, we decided we wanted to offer our library services to those remote villages in Canton Jama-Manabí. As you can imagine, our burro Domingo falls short of our expanding ambitions, and this is why we need your help to bring a real Library Bus to villages such as San Isidro, Pechichal, Estero Seco, Convento. We have already started with homework tables in some of these villages where we´ve donated encyclopedias, dictionaries and trained a couple of young people or the local school teacher so she will be able to offer the first impulse to young readers and their potential researching habits.

A 4x4 vehicle will ensure that we can continue expanding this service in remote communities roving the inroads of cantón Jama. We want to open the Library Bus doors and offer the same educational and liberating experiences children enjoy in Don Juan. A Library Bus singles a child out from her peers by attending to her request; it gives a young person the mental nourishment that helps her build her self-esteem. You never know when a troubled little girl may need a book. Well, yes you do, it’s when her world has turned upside down, when the adults she expects to protect her have been left powerless, leaving her confused and lonely. This is the time when she not only needs a good book, but deserves a safe place. In a Library, with the guidance of a respectful and well-intentioned adult, she can find the book that helps her make sense of her loss. A smart, beautifully illustrated book will allow her to understand the passions that are consuming her: the sadness, anger or confusion that she has no words for. This is the first step to enable relief, strength and self-worth. And this is how libraries save lives. 

The first library
The first library
Seismic resistant bamboo Library
Seismic resistant bamboo Library
Homework in the library
Homework in the library
with friends
with friends
This is a big deal for us!
This is a big deal for us!

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Photo workshop
Photo workshop

Now that the intercultural center is finished with its basic construction process, we have been inviting volunteers to come and work with us in the Children´s Library and Intercultural Center. We encourage volunteers that are traveling as couples because, this way, the workload is shared; after hours they enjoy the privacy of a beautiful bamboo home, and more importantly they embody a different manner of being a couple. In a patriarchal setting as Don Juan, this is fundamental to our gender focused objectives. Our current volunteers come from Germany, Tom is teaching a photography workshop with girls ages 10 to 12; Janina teaches English for adults in the afternoon. Both of them are hard working very organized and have fitted right in from the beginning. Our volunteers help us run the remedial reading program; homework assistance, Library support and also teach English in the local grade school. We would like to share their experience with you: Please tell us how you came to know about us My name is Janina Martens I´m from Germany. My husband Tom and I are travelling the world together. We did not want to be tourists and therefore we looked on the internet for opportunities to help and travel. We found “Workaway” and there we found this Project. We had not planned to visit Ecuador on our way through South America, but we liked the idea of a Library in a fishing village so much, that we changed our plans and came to Ecuador. Since you read our posting and knew what the work was and the accommodations, after being with us for several weeks what was something you were not expecting? We were surprised with the people; we knew there would be contact with the community; but that´s something every Project tells you. But we were really surprised that right from the start, with the village being so small it really works. we did not expect this to happen so fast. When you are volunteering around the world, you get used to the phrase “community relationships” every Project claims that it is building such a relationship. When we arrived to Don Juan, we were surprised to see how people greeted us on the street. After spending time with the kids in the Library and going out with them to the beach, we were immediately recognized and accepted as part of the community. Another thing we were not expecting is that there would be so many kids coming in the afternoon! We are used to a Library were one individual comes in, browses through the books, finds what she needs, checks it out and leaves with the book. Here you see children flocking in groups to read, play games or hang out with the volunteers. We were not used to kids spending their whole afternoons in the Library! We thought there would be 5 or 7 kids coming in, to take a book and leave. So in your experience with Libraries in Germany, what is it the difference. For me in Germany a Library is a place you go take a book and take it home. As a child I don´t remember being it a place you stay to have fun like the experience these kids have here. They come here as if they would go to a park, they use it like a meeting point, where they hang out; it’s a communal space. What is the best part of your day? By 4pm I find myself looking forward to the English adults class that I teach. After the whole day reading and talking in Spanish with the children, it is a soothing time to sit with adults and speak slowly in English. As a result of my work with the children, I can tell my Spanish has improved so much during these weeks, specially by how, by the end of the afternoon I need to sit with adults! I´m not really used to working with children, I have to admit I feel more comfortable teaching English to adults. What have you learned from this experience in Don Juan? For us it has offered a direct window to education. This is something we, in Germany, take for granted: education is something that really works well in Germany and I had never thought about it. You go to school, and you get an education. For these children, this is not necessarily so. So when you see how things are in a rural village like Don Juan, you get frustrated about the difficulties people have to get a good education. This is why volunteering with this Project has been so meaningful, this Library keeps the eagerness of learning alive. I think what this Library and Intercultural Center is doing is great, it not only changes the lives of the children who come in and spend their afternoons doing homework or hanging out with friends, games, books and volunteers. It also changes your life. Do you think what we are attempting here will have a long term impact? This is an honest question I often ask myself: I hope so, I think that just the possibility to go somewhere to meet people that pay respectful attention to you as a child, offers a new possibility that was not there before, this is a very different experience for them than going to the local school in Don Juan. As to gender dynamics, what do you thing you as a couple are teaching? It happens like in the background, you don’t even notice it, when we go out for a walk, we are the only couple to be seen. You never see couples walking around. Or maybe when people come and see Tom cooking they are intrigued and maybe this will eventually change gender dynamics and show them there is not one only way of being a couple; hopefully we are challenging gender stereotypes.

In the Library
In the Library
English class
English class
Tom
Tom
After a good days work
After a good days work

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Intercultural Center in Don Juan
Intercultural Center in Don Juan

 

Its Friday afternoon, a gorgeous sunset is coming in through the kitchen window of the Intercultural Center in Don Juan. We have cleared out the ping pong table, the chairs and books are back in their place and we have closed the Library. Our volunteers are getting ready to go to the beach and we, the operating staff, are settling in for our weekly reunion. At the kitchen table is Myriam Rivas –a local mother and neighbor who is now our assistant Librarian, my husband Esteban Ponce and myself. While sipping green tea with honey, we discuss the priorities and next steps in our Library, Intercultural Center, and Volunteer’s household. On February 24th we held an open meeting with all the Foundation´s members and neighbors. We presented our financial records, displayed all the donations received and the expenditure on construction, equipment and operation of the new Intercultural Center.

I can hardly believe all we have done; when I look back and see some pictures of all the destruction the earthquake left, and compare it with this beautiful bamboo construction that hosts the Children´s Library, the Training Center and the Volunteer Suite, I am at awe at how, with your generous support, all we had planned, came through.

The construction of the Intercultural Center is officially finished and we are formally closing this project. We are ready to widen our impact visiting remote villages in our province to offer them the same programs and events we are running in Don Juan; therefore we are turning back to the Library bus.

A day in the Intercultural Center starts after the volunteers in the second floor have already had breakfast, taken a shower; we have arrive to clean floors, arrange books and set everything ready to open our doors at 9am.

In the morning we collaborate with the grade school in Don Juan by bringing kids who have difficulty in reading and writing. Our phonetical writing - reading practice is evidence based on a long term program led and supported by Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar. Homework assistance for teenagers is backed by encyclopedias, maps, dictionaries and computers. Mornings are busy and quiet; while afternoons get a bit more crowded with all the grade school kids that come flocking in to do their homework, read, play or just hang out in the story telling corner to get away from the dust and the scorching sun. On Thursdays, women get together in a women´s circle where they discuss health, family issues, beauty tips or self-defense, depending on the instructor or teacher they have asked us to invite. Fridays are noisy and a lot of fun: we bring out ping-pong, foosball tables and games. During the afternoon we offer Taekwondo training for girls and we often invite all the neighbors for bingo and a cook out in the traditional dirt oven.

Coming back to our weekly meeting, Myriam, asserts that we should always leave the main reading room untouched for the children. “Let´s host Thursday´s “beauty nonsense” in the patio and the kitchen” says Myriam. I think she has a point. The CIAMM Centro Intercultural A mano manaba was built, concluded and inaugurated on December 22. Since then and way before, our most loyal patrons are the children who have accompanied us through thick and thin in this amazing journey, they are the most gratifying part of our everyday efforts to bring education and opportunity to this fishing village in northern Manabí. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you again for your continued support during this first period of construction, equipment and operation. Our programs are replicable, evidence based and above all, respond to a manifest need of these communities left to their own devices. Our next step is the Library Bus, we do hope you will join us in this expanding educational endeavor that has proven to improve our neighbor´s life in our tiny village of Don Juan.

Main reading room
Main reading room
Photo workshop
Photo workshop

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Growing strong
Growing strong

Selenia (age 10) likes to go to the library each afternoon.  When she gets home from school, she hurries through lunch and races to the library to do her homework and then do “stuff”. One of the things she likes most is to color detailed pictures, a project she shares with some other girls her age. They don’t allow the younger kids to get involved because the work requires a lot of care and concentration.  “While we color, we talk about things and time flies” says Selenia. 

The recent photography workshop selected one of Selenia’s photos for the inaugural exhibition of the new Centro Intercultural A mano manaba.  She is very proud of the photo she took.  The photographer who led the workshop decided to work with girls between 10 and 12 years old: “this is an age that is very critical in growth; it is when a person defines, not her work or profession, but rather the type of person she will be when she grows up.” This program, like all those proposed by Fundación A mano manaba, emphasizes the participation of women and girls in order to help them deal with the gender issues and difficulties that are evident in this small community of fishermen. The photography workshop, in addition to teaching basic techniques and skills for using cameras, helped these girls to “de-automate” their view of their surroundings, to see more clearly and critically.

Selenia also participated in the rhyming verse competition during the recent inaugural “Chigualo” for the Center. A Chigualo is a traditional Manabi way to celebrate Christmas by creating spontaneously rhyming verses. The inaugural Chigualo was organized and led by Alexandra Cusme, a member of FAMM and a well known feminist “amorfinera” from the Calceta area an hour east.  In the program Selenia learned not only to improve her rhyming skills, but also gender and empowerment concepts that will help her to better negotiate the conditions and terms for her own growth and development, and expand her protagonism towards life and community.  

We love the Chigualo in Don Juan
We love the Chigualo in Don Juan
With our friends
With our friends

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Organization Information

Corporacion Grupo Randi Randi

Location: Quito - Ecuador
Website:
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Rut Roman
Project Leader:
Rut Roman
Quito, Ecuador

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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