Biblioteca Puedo Leer - Looking for Ideas

Biblioteca Puedo Leer putting books into the hands of children

Granada Nicaragua

Last week we did a library workshop with a small school group - two teachers, an administrator, a volunteer and, later in the morning, two teenage boys whom I think were there for the cookies. We do these workshops when we have received a special donation to put a ‘bibliotecaula’ (a cupboard with 100 books) into a school. The workshop started out like they do every time with the participants displaying a reluctance to speak. They obviously don’t know what is going to be expected of them and like many Nicaraguans with whom we have worked, they are reluctant to participate in case they do it ‘wrong’. They assume they will be sitting, listening and then answering questions about what we have said, the norm in the classrooms here. We, on the other hand, want them to be actively involved mentally, emotionally and eventually, physically. So we read stories to them to elicit their personal reactions to the characters and the stories. We have them read to each other (after a practice period). We ask open-ended questions in order to elicit personal opinions and reactions. We don’t want the participants to get the ‘correct’ answers. We want to hear answers that are different from our own! So why I’m telling you this is because this was exactly the way the morning started - long silences while we waited for responses. Two hours later they were all working, chatting and laughing together and with us! The change was so noticeable. It may have been the way all of our twelve to fourteen workshops have ended but this time I really noticed it and felt really good that these kindly, intelligent people were feeling empowered by what we had done with them that morning. And it is within that recognition that lies our dilemma - how are we going to be able to continue bringing this knowledge and strength to the people here - parents, teachers and children?

That’s why my letter to you is entitled Looking for Ideas.

We are looking for ways to save not only the workshop aspects of this project, but the whole project itself.

Many of you, if not all, are aware that there are many changes occurring here in Nicaragua. For the past year we have been experiencing social/political upheavals that are having dramatic effects on all aspects of life. Thousands have fled the country in fear. Hundreds have been imprisoned and hundreds more shot and killed. Hundreds of thousands have lost their livelihoods as the economy has been torn apart after twenty or more years of continuous growth. The banks have reclaimed cars, motorcycles and homes.

These changes are, of course, having a dramatic impact on all aspects of life here, so of course ,the library is feeling the effects too.

For a while when actual physical danger seemed imminent we changed the hours of the library to make sure children and librarians had sufficient time to get home before dark. We’ve reverted back to our old hours as the danger of violent actions seem to have decreased.

We have continued to deliver bags of books to public schools on a bi-weekly schedule. We take books to the central park every Saturday (while we’re still in the dry season!) so that the children of venders and others using the park can come to read, to be read to and to participate in craft activities. We are continuing our reading incentive programme where we pay a ‘teca’ to a child for reading another book. They can then use the tecas to buy small items such a small toys, school supplies etc that have been donated to us. Our library membership remains vibrant and growing and we are planning ways to connect more with adolescents in the hopes we can entice them to join and use the library.

As you can tell we are committed to this project. We see it as an important project for the future of these children and of Nicaragua as a whole.

So why the call for help?

Obviously the whole economy has been dealt a blow by the happenings of the past year. Many people are now out of work. Many foreigners who used to come here on a annual basis and many of whom own actually property here are not coming. Tourism is down 70% or more. These were all part of our calculations for keeping the libraries viable.

We used to conduct weekly house tours that netted us several hundred dollars a month over the course of a year. We now have no people coming who want to see inside these beautiful colonial houses. We do a yearly chili cook-off competition each January and this year we netted half of what we usually made - $1100 as opposed to $2000. And, of course, our individual donations are almost non-existent at the moment.

At the same time, although we are being very careful about our spending, there are many items that are out of our control: salaries( $830US per month), rent ($310US), social security ($178US) and transportation ($70US) to name our important expenses. Right now our monthly expenses are slightly under $1400US but we have $10,555US in our bank account with nothing coming in: enough for six or seven months if we are really careful.

So we need ideas!

We need ideas on how we can reach out for small and large donations, for long term regular donations and single one-time donations.

We’re a small group and although we have some ideas we would like to have input from hundreds if not thousands of you.

We do not like asking for money but we are passionate believers in the need for children wanting to and liking to read. Libraries are a big way of ensuring books get into the hands of children especially here in this second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Many of us are avid readers who were brought up in countries where there were, and still are, libraries. We’ve experienced the joy of reading from comic books and magazines to novels, poetry to work manuals. Even though we understand the power of technology for the future it is going to require good readers.

So we are asking you to share with us any ideas you may have. We’re asking you to pass this letter on to any friend or acquaintance you have that you know values reading.

 We know we can survive if we have all of you involved in finding ideas for funding for us.

Please help.

Please contact me with any ideas you have:


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