For the past 12 years, beginning when he retired from his teaching position at a local school in Tecpán, Guatemala, Don Ramón, as everyone affectionately calls him, has been doing everything he can to make his local library a better resource for children. Year after year, he requested help from the mayor’s office. He pounded on embassy doors in Guatemala City. He handwrote letters to international organizations and asked local residents to donate any books they had.
Each year, Don Ramón accomplished a little more: a bigger room, a set of encyclopedias, a new shelf. But after more than a decade of hard work, he still lacked one key ingredient: books for children.
That changed in 2010, after Child Aid met with Don Ramón and local teachers, and agreed to begin Child Aid’s Reading for Life program in Tecpán. We provided hundreds of children’s books for the library and hired a local carpenter to build colorful wooden furniture so the children had a place to sit and read. We provided training for the two librarians and helped them start story hours for the children. We also provided literacy training to 34 local teachers – most of whom had never stepped foot in the library.
Books, reading programs, physical improvements to libraries, and training are all components of Reading for Life. The most critical component, however, is people. Don Ramón exemplifies our belief that people – not projects – are the best way to affect lasting change.
By working with Don Ramón to promote and improve the library, and by training local teachers and librarians, we help ensure local commitment to literacy. The result is more teachers reading to children, more children in the library, and more kids reading books. In the country with the lowest literacy rates in Latin America, that’s the result we want.