Welcome to today’s A to Z Blog Challenge Post. This year I am writing about Library Love and today I’d like to share a library near and dear to my heart.
When you step away from your normal routine, amazing things can happen. Last year a friend invited me to go on a woman’s retreat in Nicaragua with Students International. To say that this trip changed my life would be an understatement. SI works to build relationships with people through occupational ministries in impoverished communities. As a teacher, I was excited to work with Elianor Navarette in the education site in the communities of Valle de Volcan and Cocal in Nindiri, Nicaragua.
The children of Valle de Volcan live around the city’s trash dump. Many of the families make their living by searching the dump for items to sell. The children attend the local school in the morning, but without access to books and supplies, they easily fall behind academically. The children come to the education site for help with reading and math in the afternoon. Elianor spends her mornings making home visits to show parents how to help their children with their education. She also goes into the school to work with these children in the classroom.
I was not prepared when I went to the site. We passed the dump with many people scavenging. Then, we reached the school building. It was a simple wood frame structure covered by sheets of metal. Elianor unlocked the gate. We walked along the dirt paths as she called to the children. They came out with hugs and smiles. Each carried their plastic chair to the “classroom.”
I was humbled to see how children can learn in the most primitive of situations when taught by an enthusiastic and loving teacher. Here in the U.S. we so often complain about our lack of resources in schools. Most people really have no idea of the needs that exist in other places.
I returned the following month with my husband. Churches, schools, teachers, and individuals were raising money to build a community center located between Valle de Volcan and Cocal. The center would house the medical and education sites. I asked Elianor what needed. She told me that the children needed a library. Well, I told her, these children will have a library.
I began the task of building a Spanish book collection for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Friends, authors, and teachers donated money and books. Petunia’s Place book store in Fresno gave us a generous discount on books we ordered.
Thanks to generous donors and hard workers, it took just about a year for the community center, now named El Faro (the Lighthouse) to be built. A crew came from a church in Indiana and built shelves. I spoke with numerous librarians and decided to organized the collection by subject. I color coded them with tape so the children would be able to easily find books and then to re-shelve them in the proper place. I loaded the books into huge suitcases and flew to Nicaragua. Within a week, the library was set up in the education site.
A grand opening celebration was held and it seems that just about everyone from the surrounding areas came to El Faro which is now a beacon of light, learning, and hope for the community.
It is amazing to see what can be accomplished through the prayers and faithfulness of committed people. The library is small but will grow in the months as people continue to make donations to add to the collection. It is exciting to think about the children having such a wonderful place to learn. I can’t wait to go back.