Vaga Lume's team online meeting
Vaga Lume is an organization that promotes literacy for children in the Amazon, impacting the
lives of over 12 thousand children every year. As anybody would imagine, promoting literacy
means that we also build libraries to be spaces where books are stored, lent and cultural
activities take place.
In this context, we are re-shaping the ways we understand our work to combat COVID-19 in
the rural areas of the Amazon.
A quick note about Brazil’s medical infrastructure in the Amazon: there are only 0.68 intensive
care unit beds for every 10,000 people (USA accounts for 3.5, Germany 2.9, Italy 1.3), and
these beds are concentrated in the biggest cities – Manaus, Belém, Rio Branco, which means
that in this vast territory (area approximately 2/3 of USA) there are millions of people that
would need to travel many days by boat to have the proper medical attention.
With this said, we need to understand our role, our limitations and our strengths to combat
In Vaga Lume, as we understand our work, the first thing we do in new situations is to listen to
the people in the communities we support to learn with them how our work could be relevant,
what is to be in quarantine in these communities and what kind of help is more useful. We
already had the chance to start these conversations and this is what we have learnt:
Reliable information: with the many resources of information and fakenews, Vaga Lume is a
reliable source of information to spread to the communities we support about the dangers,
the simple measures everyone can take to avoid being infected, and when to ask for help.
Reading during quarantine: our libraries are closed for activities, but reading shouldn’t stop.
The libraries are lending books to children before they are actually closed. In some places
Whatsapp groups are more active now as a way to exchange ideas about reading and books.
Online meetings: Internet is more available than we usually think in the Amazon. In 70% of the
communities we work, we have some kind of connection. Connecting our volunteers in ZOOM
meetings or conference calls has revealed to be very good to share information about good
practices in the libraries, to understand each other needs, and to exchange ideas about COVID-
Empathy: When the virus started spreading in São Paulo, where our main office is located, in
the southeast of Brazil, we received many calls from the people from the Amazon worried to
know how our team was, if we were safe and taking care of ourselves. This shows that Vaga
Lume´s Community is an important resource to exchange ideas and even to find comfort in this
Although we are still looking for answers, we are moving forward to find ways where reading
aloud or doing activities with children can be a joyful experience in this time of quarantine in
the Amazon or in our own houses.