Can you believe it? It’s been seven years since we first went to work in Guatemala and five since we started our Leaders and Readers Program. Five years since we first awarded six scholarships and five years since those first scholars changed some 200 lives. Fast forward to the end of 2013 and I’m struck not only by how fast time has flown but by the growth we’ve seen and the impact we’ve had.
The Children - Thousands of children are growing up loving to read, and they now actively seek out books; this alone will change their lives. But they are also learning vocabulary, comprehension and creative and critical thinking skills, which are not taught in school.
The Teens - We're thrilled to report that 100% of teens who complete our program graduate from high school . And they are transformed from timid and quiet adolescents into bold leaders. Our scholars are not only leaving behind them a generation of readers they are also leading the transformation of their communities in the development of libraries and community centers in their villages – the first ever in their towns!
The Graduates - Our graduates are earning competitive salaries as teachers, librarians, nurses, health workers, literacy promoters, administrators and bookkeepers. And, to our delight, they are forming a network of program alumni to remain connected to each other and further the development of their communities. I am moved by all that these youth dare to accomplish.
The dreams of all the children, teens, and graduates constantly inspire us to deepen our impact. In 2014 we will launch into our fourth community, we will serve 51 scholars and 3,000 children. We will also pilot a fellowship program with the innovative Asturias Academy in Quetzaltenango - the second largest city in Guatemala, about 90 minutes from our partner communities. Two of our alumni will teach at the K-12 school, be mentored in the school's unique methodology, as well as receive scholarships to continue their university studies. This is just the next step in developing leaders who will come back to lift up their communities. It's a great honor, joy and privilege to watch them rise to the challenges in front of them and grow in their abilities.
As the year winds down and we look forward to all that lies ahead, I want to thank you for your partnership in this important work. Happy New Year from everyone at Reading Village!