On a cloudy, rainy summer day in Sucre, during the Carnaval festivities, while people were celebrating with parades, music and water balloons in the streets, the BiblioWorks staff had been discussing the location for a new library in Bolivia. BiblioWorks started 2010 with some great news; Biblio.com and the BiblioWorks Board of Directors agreed to finance a new library project in Bolivia!
The Department (like a state) of Chuquisaca, where we do our work, is the second poorest department in Bolivia after Potosi. There are an astonishing amount of communities that don’t even have books in their schools for teachers to use. We know it would be difficult to cover every town, but at least we can make our small footprint in the world with one more community library. The need is great, so we pre-selected three possible locations for our library, basing our decision on several factors, such as: distance from Sucre, community interest in a library, and existence of a library space to work with.
On that same fateful day during Carnaval, a man named Don Prudencio visited the offices of BiblioWorks. Don Prudencio is a short man who always wears a baseball cap and carries a book and notebook. From the moment you meet him, you know you are in the presence of a kind, gentle and strong individual. He is the district superintendent of education in Tomina, a small town nestled between high green mountains approximately 110 miles from the city of Sucre. When he stepped into the office (as Tomina was one of the pre-selected towns), Don Prudencio took his hat off, sat down and said “I received your organization’s profile and project proposal, and I sincerely hope you will come and work with us in Tomina; our children and young adults are yearning to learn and deserve good books to read and do their homework with.” So with that, I am proud to announce that the town of Tomina will be the site for our new library project! It is a great fit for BiblioWorks because it sits at a crossroad between Villa Serrano and Sopachuy, two other towns where we already have libraries. Also, there is great support from the mayor’s office for the new library.
I traveled out to Tomina after that fateful first encounter with Don Prudencio to meet with him, the mayor and local educational leaders to decide how we would begin. I saw the library space that they currently have, and I had a chance to meet the librarian. The space is large and the building is in good condition, but there are only a few rickety, metal shelves with some dusty books and not a child in sight (at least during my few minutes there). What needs to be decided now, along with the help of Don Prudencio, the teachers, and the mayor, Don Zenon, is what books, furniture and games will be needed in the library. BiblioWorks will then begin training the librarian in the Dewey Decimal System, customer service and how to create literacy-promoting activities. We will also begin forming a Library Committee of parents, teachers and community members, which will supervise the librarian’s work and hold town-wide literacy events to promote the joy of reading. We hope to inaugurate the library later in the year, and by then it will be fully equipped with essential books, audio-visual equipment, furniture, games, maps and other educational materials that will benefit all the people, young and old, whom dwell in the town of Tomina.
While, Biblio.com has given the green light to start our crucial work in Tomina, it is still very much a dream. Without your help in the form of monetary donations, we will not be able to make this new library a reality.
Put yourself, for a moment, in the town of Tomina. You head out of the urban center of Sucre at dusk in a wobbly bus, probably built in the 1970s, winding up the dirt mountain roads for three and half hours. You wake up before dawn in the hamlet of Tomina, where 93% of families live in material poverty. You see children coming in from the countryside to school, some having walked two hours from their one room, mud-brick homes. You walk to the high school and enter a classroom with a chalkboard, a teacher and desks that are too few to accommodate the over-crowded classrooms. Some of the children have a notebook and a pencil, maybe even an eraser, but there is no textbook; actually no book of any kind for that matter. In the mayor’s office, the superintendent of education’s office, and the two schools in Tomina you can only find five computers. This, like any other place on the planet, is a place where people desire to educate their children. The work BiblioWorks has set out to do in Tomina will give valuable educational tools to a generation of children and teenagers, so that they may grow up and have a much-deserved brighter future than their parents ever had.
People often say that Bolivians do not read; that it is not part of their culture. That is not true. I have seen the smile on a little girl’s face while reading a new book we brought to her library; traveling through the pictures and words on the page to a new place, dreaming of new opportunities for her future and expanding her mind and intellect to degrees she could not have imagined before the library was in her town. Please consider donating to this important cause.
Your donations at work:
A $25 donation will buy world maps and educational posters for the new library in Tomina.
A $50 donation will buy educational games and/or new books for Tomina.
A $100 donation will buy tables and chairs for Tomina.
A $500 donation will buy a new set of encyclopedias Tomina.
A $1500 donation will buy an entire set of books matching the local school curriculum for the new library in Tomina.
For donations of $1500 or more, we will gladly place a plaque in the library of your choice to recognize your gift. To make a secure online donation, please use the PayPal link at the bottom of this page. Or, if you prefer, please send a check to:
Biblio Charitable Works, Inc.
PO Box 1211
Asheville, NC 28802
Thank you so much for your support,
Latin American Project Coordinator
Sucre, Bolivia, March 2010