An assortment of cars, pickup trucks and minivans snaked through the fields of the Azotea coffee farm near Antigua a few weeks ago, waiting to pick up boxes of new books.
Representatives from 19 schools, libraries and community organizations traveled from around Guatemala to Child Aid’s book warehouse for our Book Distribution Day, a yearly event that helps get books into the hands of kids in communities around Guatemala.
Last year, Child Aid distributed over 100,000 Spanish language books donated by international book distributors International Book Bank and the International Book Project. This year we are on track to surpass that number.
Many of the books are packaged and delivered to our partner schools and libraries throughout the year. The remainder are distributed through book distribution events, which are open to any community or organization that wants to participate.
This year, groups came from as far away as La Libertad, in the northern state of Peten and Rio Blanco near the western city of Quetzaltenango.
Each group is asked to pay a small fee and provide their own transportation for the books. The event kicks off with a four-hour training, which helps familiarize participants with the books they are receiving and provides instruction on cataloging and displaying books and other strategies for making the books more accessible to their patrons.
In a country where books of any kind are hard to come by, an event like this is a joyous occasion. The smiles were big and the enthusiasm contagious as groups pulled up to the warehouse and loaded boxes of books into their vehicles.
Mario Hernandez Orellana, from the small town of Parramos, was beaming when he described how the donation of over 1,500 new storybooks and non-fiction books for the the town’s municipal library would nearly double the size of their collection. “These books will be a great addition to our community,” he said.
“We try to make the day a big event,” said Child Aid Country Director John van Keppel. “It helps reinforce the feeling that these books are a valuable resource and gives participants a sense of excitement to bring them back to share with their communities.”
As the last truck pulled away, members of the Child Aid staff congratulated each other in a nearly empty warehouse after distributing over 28,000 books in just a few hours. But they won’t be able to relax for long. A new shipping container full of books arrives in Guatemala this week.