When librarian Ivonne Barrientos woke up one morning last week, she was looking forward to a big day. But she didn’t realize just how big it would be. For the past month, Ivonne had been busy coordinating and promoting her library’s new school break program, Adventures in Reading, in the Kaqchikel-speaking village of Tzumpango, Guatemala.
For children from rural highland communities like Tzumpango, there aren’t many opportunities to keep busy during the school vacation months. Ivonne took the initiative, thanks to her Child Aid-led training, and arranged for her library to host Adventures in Reading for some 100 children.
Ivonne thought that the first day would go smoothly and as planned – but she was in for a big surprise. While she was setting-up, she heard voices outside the library. She opened the door, and was speechless. Outside waiting was a crowd of not 100 kids, but over 600! Most children were from Tzumpango, but many were from nearby villages. They had heard about a free school break reading program for children and the news spread like wildfire.
Ivonne wanted to make sure all the children could actively participate, so she called Child Aid’s library coordinator, Carlos Pos Ben, who was already en route, and let him know what was happening. Carlos, equally surprised by the number of children, suggested some activities that utilized small groups to help focus and engage their participation.
Ivonne liked the idea, but she knew she couldn’t physically manage the number of children by herself. She then put in a call in to the mayor of Tzumpango with the news and asked him for ideas. To Ivonne’s surprise, he responded by sending local traffic police to help her organize the program’s activities!
Child Aid staff did a brief pre-meeting and training with Ivonne and the police. Despite initial fears that the police might scare or intimidate the children, the police presence actually helped build bridges of trust between the children, their families and the community.
Tzumpango’s story is yet another example of how Child Aid programs like Adventures in Reading continue to grow in depth and scope. It was a challenge to work with so many children, but with focused activities and enough manpower, the program succeeded in having children further their reading skills.
Thanks to Ivonne, Child Aid staff and local authorities in Tzumpango, an entire community was able to come together for literacy.