Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth

by Limitless Horizons IXIL
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth
Support literacy and learning for 1,900 Maya youth

 

2021 in review 

In 2021 we provided 80 hours of reading club for 184 active members (58% girls) aged 4-14 years old. 100% of our Saber Sin Límites (Limitless Knowledge) community library members said the library helped them to succeed in school. Our librarians produced 40 bilingual Spanish-Ixil story hours on the local radio. Broadcasts reach Chajul and many villages beyond, and were played for 230 hours total. While schools were shut, teachers also developed 20 bilingual Ixil-Spanish classes for local television, radio, social media, and school networks.

 

Current programming

We are opening the community library every day to small groups of students, a maximum of 25 members at a time. Our librarians are doing a reading club for children and story hours twice a week, as well as free time with community library users, including homework, research, reading, playing games, and painting. They are also continuing to record bilingual Spanish-Ixil radio story hours, reaching many more children in the region who live too far away to attend in-person programs. 

 

Saber Sin Límites library member spotlights 

Evelyn is 12 years old and in the sixth grade. She says that she really likes coming to the community library because it is a good space to do her homework, and a place where she gets support to work on research for her classes. She enjoys that in the library she always learns new things when reading a wide variety of books.

Selina is also 12 years old and in the sixth grade. She says the community library is a great place to learn to read, to listen to story time, and a place where she receives a lot of support with her homework. She knows that in the library there is always something new to learn every time she visits. 

Evelyn
Evelyn
Selina
Selina

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We’re excited to share updates on the last few months in our Saber Sin Límites Community Library! And if you missed our last update, we want to be sure you saw the big news—we’re honored to have recently won the 2021 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Literacy Prize

 

Library activities resumed after brief COVID-related pause

In September, after we had to suspend some activities due to increased COVID-19 cases in Chajul, we resumed activities in our Saber Sin Límites Community Library. Our head librarian David and part-time librarian Cecilia Jacinta supported our library members with a variety of activities. Children benefited from math, science, and English classes, as well as reading club, research time, and book lending in limited socially distanced and masked groups. 

 

Three weeks of engaging year-end activities 

At the end of November, once school had finished for the year, around 30 of our most active library members participated in approximately 50 hours of all-day library activities over the course of three weeks. Children were super excited to join in a special reading club and story hour sessions, science activities, and a movie screening. At the close of these fun weeks before the holidays, each participant received a small holiday gift including some school supplies. 

 

Radio broadcasting continues with guest host Kendel

David and Cecilia Jacinta have continued recording bilingual Spanish–Ixil story hours at the local radio station that are broadcasted out to all residents of Chajul and its surrounding villages (population 48,000), reaching far beyond our library members who traditionally can come to the library in person. There is one library member named Kendel who loves to help host these weekly radio story hours to share stories with other children! Kendel likes books that promote gender equality and children's rights, as he believes that everyone should have the same opportunities. And David reflects, "children like him inspire me to keep working to support children, because they are agents of change in their families and in Chajul."

 

TV classes

Since the beginning of September we have recorded 10 math and language bilingual Spanish–Ixil classes for TV! The classes were shared via the local TV and radio stations, through social media, and distributed to school directors and teachers for them to share with their students. While most homes in the area lack internet, nearly half have TV access. Our short, engaging shows aim to fill in learning gaps from the pandemic and motivate young people to continue in school! We’re happy that our team was able to bring learning into homes in this way while most schools remained fully or mostly closed for in-person learning.

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UNESCO Award

We are thrilled to announce that we were awarded the 2021 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) King Sejong Literacy Prize for our library program “Broadcasting Bilingual Stories: Promoting Interactive Literacy Programming in Rural Guatemala”. We were one of six global laureates to receive the prize in honor of our innovative approach to literacy programming during COVID-19, using the radio, television, and smart phones to engage young learners and minimize learning losses due to the pandemic. Our programs include reading bilingual Spanish and Ixil (the local Mayan language) stories and conducting science lessons and activities on the radio, providing STEM and language lessons on local television, and implementing book clubs on WhatsApp. 

The prize was announced on September 8 for International Literacy Day, and Filipa Lopes, our Operations & Project Development Specialist, accepted the award at an international presentation on September 9. We are honored to have received this prize as we believe that by providing young learners in vulnerable communities with educational and literacy resources—coupled with guidance and role models—small transformations can occur that will have a catalyzing impact on future generations. 

COVID Update 

In the last few months, COVID cases have steeply risen in Chajul, moving the region from yellow to orange to red on the epidemic traffic light system. While we always continue our virtual services such as radio story hour, the circumstances have forced us to at times pause in-person library services. Now that our local staff are fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine and we have reinforced COVID prevention measures, including ensuring that everyone who enters the library wears a mask, disinfects their hands, and is practices social distancing, we hope to continuously offer a safe educational environment for learners of all ages. We are currently opening the Saber Sin Limites (Limitless Knowledge) Community Library every weekday for a maximum of 15 youth at a time. 100% of library members reported that the library has helped them to succeed in school during the pandemic.  

While schools have been closed for much of the year, library members can continue to build their literacy and STEM skills through participation in Saber Sin Límites’ virtual and in person activities. They are continuing to enjoy the wide world of reading while waiting for school to start back up. Despite the challenges, the Limitless Horizons Ixil team continues to be steadfast and motivated in supporting the youth of our library.  

Radio Broadcasts

Our librarians continue offering bilingual Spanish-Ixil storybook readings on local community radio. Librarians hear that local families wait for story hour to be on the radio and listen together as a family. Ana Dayana, a library member, says she enjoys radio story hours because she learns new things and can imagine what is unfolding in the story, and she shares this with her little brothers. The librarians also incorporate messages about the importance of education and staying in or going back to school, gender equality, and they encourage community members to visit the library in person.

New Library Team Members

Cecilia Jacinta is an alumnae who was a library fellow in 2015, studied teaching at university of San Carlos, Nebaj, and is now working in the library. She enjoys helping children to do their homework and research, as well as develop their vocabulary. Cecilia is passionate about the library as she believes that providing youth with education benefits the entire community. 

Amelia, one of our bright and promising alumnae, started an Emerging Leaders Fellowship in the library. She is happy to be helping youth in the community with their homework, science, and art activities. Amelia enjoys organizing books and learning how to run a library from head librarian David. She is also eager to soon start a Limitless Horizons Ixil university scholarship to study nursing on the weekends. 

 

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When the first COVID-19 case was detected in Guatemala in March 2020, it was hard to predict the impact it would have in Guatemala. Unfortunately more than a year later and the pandemic is still very much uncontrolled in Guatemala.

Sadly after the April holiday period COVID-19 cases increased, and the Ixil region was no exception. Most schools in the Ixil region are now closed again. In some cases students are able to receive in person classes once a week in a hybrid model, and are divided in small groups who attend on different days of the week. 

With students unable to attend school there has been an increase in demand for our Saber Sin Limites Community Library. Now that restrictions allow for it to be open again, librarians David and Olga have been opening the library Monday through Friday for four hours each day, two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon.A maximum of 10 youth are able to be in the library at a time, and all COVID-19 precautions are being followed. This includes providing hand sanitizer, mandatory use of masks, and making sure social distancing is respected. 

Each hour the group of children is changed so that everyone gets a chance to spend time in the library. We are currently serving an average of 30 to 40 library users per day. Library members benefit from book lending services, book reading and investigations, a place to study and do their homework, and support from the librarians when needed. 

Limitless Horizons Ixil’s librarians have also continued offering bilingual Spanish-Ixil storybook readings on local community radio, which they started doing last year. This is a great way to provide a service for continuing for our library visitors as well as the whole community, and is done every week. 

The increasing demand for activities and support from librarians demonstrates the need for the library, and even more so now with schools closed and students in need of as much support as possible to help them persevere with their education. 

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David in the Saber Sin Limites Community Library
David in the Saber Sin Limites Community Library

Last March the Saber Sin Límites (Limitless Knowledge) Community Library had to close as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. Despite the closure, our librarians kept working to bring educational opportunities to the local community, including STEM activities, and bilingual radio story broadcasts that were played in the homes of Chajul's families since the start of the pandemic restrictions.

Librarians, David and Olga, came up with creative new ways to continue providing educational opportunities to Chajul's youth and families. With schools in Guatemala shutting their doors for in-person classes after just two months of the 2020 school year, these educational services were crucial for students to continue learning. As students had limited access to educational support outside of our library programming, our activities helped to mitigate learning loss and ensure students remained committed to their education.

 

Library STEM activities 

Our STEM programming supports youth in Chajul to develop analytical skills that can be utilized to address some of their community's complex challenges. Through seeing problems in new ways, STEM skills help to prompt creativity, innovation, and out-of-the-box thinking. Our library members will become the next generation of problem-solvers who will address important challenges and bring new ideas and solutions to the table. In light of the changing educational and professional landscape created by the pandemic, knowledge of STEM subjects and medical fields is even more important and pressing than ever. 

By providing a learning space when possible, access to books and resources, trained librarians, and STEM programming, Limitless Horizons Ixil encourages library members to develop basic literacy in STEM subjects, gain a love of STEM, and foster confidence in pursuing STEM careers. During the 2020 closure, David and Olga read STEM-themed books on the radio and led youth through science experiments they could do with materials at home. For David, "providing library members with STEM learning opportunities is a chance for them to develop new abilities and knowledge." 

Story hours were conducted via radio broadcast, and STEM-themed books were incorporated into these broadcasts. By utilizing the radio during the pandemic, our reach was expanded to more youth and families in Chajul and surrounding villages (population 48,000). The stories were broadcast on average six times a day, seven days per week. Recently, library member Leonardo shared, “I missed the science and math classes the most [when the library was closed], but I listened to the STEM-related story hours every week with my entire family.” 

 

Limited in-person library re-opening

When government restrictions began to ease, we were able to resume some socially distanced in-person services and book lending. Over the past few months, the library has opened once a week and at a limited capacity. Though we can't wait to be fully up and running again when safe to do so, we are excited to be able to welcome Chajul's youth back to the library to check out books and participate in some STEM experiments and educational classes.  

While the pandemic and government-mandated lockdown caused a temporary closure of our library building, our local team swiftly adapted our programming ensuring the youth of Chajul could continue learning. Thank you for supporting the Saber Sin Límites (Limitless Knowledge) Community Library during this time of increased educational barriers. 

A library member doing a STEM activity
A library member doing a STEM activity

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Organization Information

Limitless Horizons IXIL

Location: San Gaspar Chajul, El Quiche - Guatemala
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Project Leader:
Emma Bourke
Chajul, Quiche Guatemala
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