Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home

by From Books to Brilliance
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Welcome to our library!
Welcome to our library!

GlobalGivers, your generosity just put us over the finish line! This project, Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home, is now fully funded. By now, our team at From Books to Brilliance (FBTB) hoped to display photos of residents happily discovering their very own public library, located only steps away from the three schools in town. Unfortunately, the pandemic has delayed Biblioteca Seacacar’s grand opening. We look forward to sending you news of that event soon.

Though unable to travel to the village, we receive updates from Emanuel and Ramiro, our Guatemalan liaisons. You may recall that the town council offered two unfinished rooms at the travel lodge for library space. Now with walls painted, floors finished, windows and doors secured we are ready to fill one room with the resources purchased months ago. Our younger patrons will delight in reading children’s books, playing games, putting puzzles together, and more. Solar-powered computers and tablets will occupy the other room. Residents of all ages will have access to a variety of educational content in Spanish and in their home language of Q’eqchi, on RACHEL (Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning), an offline digital library.

But a functioning library needs bookshelves, and in remote Mayan villages none exist. Months ago, Victor, a carpenter located in nearby El Estor, measured the rooms, and sent plans for several custom-made bookshelves and drawer-filled cabinets. Shortly afterwards he, his wife, and his parents came down with Covid. Thankfully, after several weeks all four recovered. This week Victor and his young apprentice finished the furniture and delivery is scheduled.

Since the beginning of this pandemic schools remain closed in Guatemala. This small library will soon fill an enormous educational void in town. Students will be able to advance in their studies while distancing from others. Teachers will serve as tutors. And the word is out! Local journalists recently described Seacacar’s children, who live in stick houses with dirt floors, as “privileged!" Their village library is about to open, and what a gift that is! GlobalGivers, you are welcome to visit at any time. We know some very proud kids in town that would love to show you around!

Outside library space
Outside library space
Library necessities
Library necessities
Personalized puzzles
Personalized puzzles
Guatemalan books, in Spanish, just for us
Guatemalan books, in Spanish, just for us

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The entire community of Seacacar has good reasons to celebrate. In April residents of Seacacar Abajo (Lower) and Seacacar Arriba (Upper), located on either side of the Sauce River, gathered for an historic event. They came together to welcome visitors, and to thank you, GlobalGivers. During the last two years you have helped provide the high-quality Guatemalan textbooks that local Mayan teens use to study math, language arts, social studies, and science, the first ever educational resources in all the fourteen villages of the Rio Sauce watershed.

But this day was planned for the children in town. On long tables set up in front of Lower Seacacar’s primary school, young students eagerly explored the textbooks, literature, and educational materials selected especially for them. Later that day teachers would carry half of those resources across the footbridge to the elementary school in Upper Seacacar. Now kids on both sides of the river can study beyond third grade, an opportunity never available to their parents.

Paul Heesaker, founder of the town’s middle school, explains: “This event and the donation of books is yet another injection of hope into a community that has suffered a great deal recently. The pandemic and two hurricanes seriously affected a community already marked by extreme poverty… These literacy resources and the soon to be installed RACHEL system (Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning) and computers will give students access to learning even when the government dictates that schools close (due to Covid restrictions). We have dedicated two full time teacher assistants to work with primary school students... I am deeply grateful for the ongoing support of From Books to Brilliance. Your generosity will allow us to continue efforts to end extreme poverty and protect and restore the Sauce River watershed. I look forward to the challenge of (education) reaching every child in the fourteen communities of the river watershed with you. ¡Muchas gracias!”

That day intrigued journalists from three news organizations had many questions for From Books to Brilliance’s liaison, Emanuel Carrera. Indeed, remote villages in Guatemala rarely have access to quality educational resources. How did this happen? Who were the donor organizations? How did the residents react? Emanuel explained that this precious gift was the result of the ongoing efforts and generosity of many individuals and organizations. He then invited everyone to return for the opening of the 21st century library scheduled to open soon in the village. Stay tuned, everyone, for that event. We thank you all!

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A community library for Seacacar, a village where all residents live in extreme poverty, is no longer just a dream. Residents, young and old, are preparing a space which will become the educational center for a dozen Mayan villages in the Rio Sauce watershed. Together the townspeople are carrying buckets of sand up the hill, manually mixing cement, finishing floors, and plastering walls. Bookshelves built with local hands will display books for children, teens, and adults. GlobalGivers, the Q’eqchi Maya thank you.

Paul Heesaker, a Coloradan educator, visited this indigenous village eight years ago. Juan, a local resident, spoke to him of their declining rainforest home, diminishing food, a desperate need for education, and a future for their children. With Paul’s support a beautiful rustic lodge was built. Residents were eager to learn the skills necessary to accommodate tourists. Some cooked while others constructed nature trails and planted over twenty thousand trees. The founding of a middle school strengthened education and offered the local Mayan population a path to literacy. But there were no books.

Weeks ago, the Seacacar town council determined the future of two adjacent, unfinished rooms at the lodge. A well-thought-out proposal with thumbprints and signatures sealed the deal. Community volunteers will oversee and maintain this solar powered 21st century library, offering access to resources rarely available to indigenous villages.

Because of your support, GlobalGivers, textbooks are already in the hands of middle school students. Kinder through sixth graders are reading children’s books and enjoying the educational resources their classrooms offer. When Biblioteca Seacacar opens this spring, students will have access to a digital library using RACHEL, an INTRANET system, created especially for remote villages without access to the internet. Teachers will upload the resources that fit their needs, both in Spanish and Q’eqchí! We look forward to adding literature for teens, tablets for twenty students, and references for visiting environmentalists. Please come to see the Seacacar Natural Reserve and its newest attraction…a library for the entire Rio Sauce watershed. It will be easy to locate. Just listen for the chldren’s laughter.

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Head teacher Emanuel sounded the alarm. “They are down to only tortillas.” It was early May and our friends in the rainforest village of Seacacar had already survived six weeks of quarantine. Worldwide we were given no time to prepare, but for Mayans living in a forest, this virus meant much more…probable starvation. These subsistence farmers plant in mid-May and harvest in September. During the dry season from November to April, the Q’eqchi Maya typically work for larger companies, preparing fields for planting. With those earnings their families eat. But companies were closed; the quarantine stopped everyone. In Seacacar there would be no food for the next three months. From Books to Brilliance (FBTB) and partner organization, the Rios Fund, had to act immediately.

Word went out to Rotary clubs. An online fundraiser garnered enough funds to feed the village for three weeks. Donations continued, ensuring an additional two weeks of food. FBTB liaison Emanuel recruited volunteers, shopped the markets in nearby El Estor, and delivered seventy-five gunnysacks filled with rice, beans, and oil to the village center. Masked citizens gathered with tears in their eyes, signed for their family’s ration, and praised all involved in this effort to feed their community.

Still schools were closed, and endlessly hungry children had little to do. A new program called Soup and Stories, or Leer y Comer, would encourage Seacacar’s youth to continue reading. Parents would cook a nutritious meal and serve everyone participating in this educational activity. The older kids would read stories to the younger ones. Requirements to participate were 1) keep hands clean 2) wear facemasks 3) maintain distance, and 4) bring your own dishes.

We received this update from Soup and Stories Director Emanuel Carrera:

Because of donations From Books to Brilliance in June, the Soup and Stories program was a big success, providing Seacacar communities with opportunity and hope. Although classes were suspended throughout Guatemala due to COVID-19, Seacacar children were able to benefit from a daily 90-minute reading lesson followed by a nourishing meal. Extreme poverty affects almost all Seacacar families, who are without fixed incomes, so the students’ parents were happy, relieved, and motivated to have their children take part. We managed to feed 116 people even though the prices of daily consumer goods were higher than usual because of the coronavirus. We bought our rations from vendors in the village of El Estor, which meant we could help support the local economy as well.

Additionally, (one of your donors) generously sent money for washable, reusable masks for each of the program participants. Everyone wore their masks as though they were "in uniform."  As you can see from the photographs, we put names on the masks, so that if any went missing, we could identify who they belonged to. All involved in the program took every precaution when it came to hygiene, disinfecting their hands and arms with gel alcohol and observing social distancing always. Because the routine was new to us, I will admit it took some getting used to!

Many thanks for your efforts and dedication to the Seacacar community project. Truly everything is part of a chain of aid.

Thank you GlobalGivers! Your continued generosity plays an enormous role in the future of a people, a forest, and a life-giving river.

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We will be in middle school soon!
We will be in middle school soon!

We are getting accustomed to the books and we are very proud of learning new things…so that we can be leaders some day in our community, writes fourteen-year-old Lorena Yulissa Seb Coc. Hers is one of two dozen letters, hand-written in Spanish, that From Books to Brilliance recently received. At home in Seacacar and the other thirteen Mayan villages located on the banks of the Sauce River, Lorena and her classmates speak in Q’eqchí. In elementary school they begin to learn Spanish. These textbooks, published in Guatemala and purchased in the capital city, are the first-ever available at the Instituto Básico Comunitario.

Prompted by your generosity, GlobalGivers, these middle school students fill their letters with expressions of gratitude. If not for you, we wouldn’t be able to study. The books make our school better, writes Mirian. We are learning to read, write and speak in another language. We now know the benefits of reading, says another. The books also teach us how to take care of the forest and the animals here. Please come to our community so that we can show you what we are learning. We are very happy.

Due to this devastating global pandemic, our March 12 trip was cancelled hours before seven From Books to Brilliance volunteers could board our planes. The world now stands still, but we are grateful for the virtual connections that stretch from New Mexico into the Guatemalan rainforest. Head teacher Emanuel scans their writing and sends the letters to us by email. Voices of young teens, rarely heard outside their villages, arrive in our inbox. What a gift!

In this report we hoped to depict the birth of a library, a day when middle school students would read beautiful storybooks to the little ones. Citizens from all fourteen villages would show up to celebrate a future of literacy for their youth and the possibilities those skills would bring. Together we would laugh, tell stories, and eat birthday cake and maybe ice cream. Our itinerary was full. That day will come again, and when it does, we will keep you posted. We all thank you from our hearts for your kindness and generosity.

The books help us learn many new things.
The books help us learn many new things.
We are improving our vocabulary.
We are improving our vocabulary.
We know more about reforestation.
We know more about reforestation.
We learn about natural resources and conservation.
We learn about natural resources and conservation.

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Organization Information

From Books to Brilliance

Location: Albuquerque, NM - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @KimCovill1
Project Leader:
Kim Covill
Founder & President
Albuquerque, NM United States

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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