Winter Newsletter 2014: Strengthening communities through literacy and education

Books can change the worldWherever you are in the world this Christmas, we would love to wish you a very happy festive season! As 2014 draws to a close, we wanted to share with you, our supporters and volunteers, some of the most exciting news from our work here in Bolivia!

As ever, our team here in Sucre has been tirelessly committed to our mission of bringing literacy and the joys of reading to communities in rural Bolivia. You may have seen our recent blog posting about our newest library which is opening in Villa Abecia in January 2015. Our Director, Maritza, Library Coordinator, Roxana and I were able to journey to the town to be present at the inauguration ceremony. The event celebrated the wonderful prospects and opportunities that this new library will bring to the community and its people, as well as the hard work that everyone here at BiblioWorks have invested into the building of this library; from former Director Matt Lynn who helped us immensely through his work in fundraising, as well as our wonderful staff here: Maritza, Roxana, and our other library coordinator, Lizeth, who have spent endless hours coordinating the project with the municipal government of Villa Abecia. We look forward to the library opening its doors soon, and are hoping to send our very first volunteers there in February 2015.

Another exciting feature of our calendar this year was in April, a month that we always love, as it is the International Month of Reading and Children; both of which are causes close to our hearts! On the 23rd of April saw our now annual event ‘Sucre Lee’ (‘Sucre Reads’) take the city by storm, with a team of fourteen volunteers spending a day working in collaboration with the local buses to bring reading to hundreds of their passengers. Over 500 books and 240 magazines were gifted to passengers and bus drivers in and around the city to encourage the whole community to unite in reading for one day!

We were also proud to hold our Third Annual Fería de La Lectura, or Reading Festival in Sucre in April with the support of local people and our international volunteers. Having spent weeks of planning, we were delighted with the attendance and the buzz of excitement about reading that the event stimulated. Over 1800 people, including children from seventeen local schools and two children’s homes, as well as seven other schools brought to the event courtesy of our Bibliobuses, enjoyed the workshops and other activities offered at the event. The festival was the combined effort of seventeen institutions, including NGOs, public and private institutions, with BiblioWorks taking a lead in the fundraising and organisation which made it possible. We look forward to celebrating these wonderful events again this coming April!

We also celebrated in April the opening of our first ever playground, in the community of Tomoroco. Fourteen of our volunteers, along with eighteen students from the local school and other community members, helped us to build the play area, which came into being after months of fundraising and communication with the local authorities. Who knows: maybe we’ll get the chance to build another one in 2015!

Much of the work that we do at BiblioWorks is examining ways that we can continue to strengthen the work that our libraries do for their communities, as we move each of them ever closer to our principal aim: sustainability. Roxana and Lizeth continue to work with our librarians and the communities, training the children and families in the best uses of the library and the importance of reading. To reinforce the power of each community to be a factor in their own continuing development, we are also proud that we have helped to establish Library Committees in four more libraries, which are solely comprised of members of the local community. We also view training these committees to show them what can be achieved through their collective work as important, and have worked hard to supply them with the tools for their success.

BiblioWorks have also been proud this year of our involvement with various other organisations in and around Sucre, who are committed to developing the life opportunities of impoverished young people and their families. In August, we were invited to an event run by Institución Qhara Qhara Suyo, a local group which works with indigenous people to support them in recognising their rights in modern Bolivian society. We led a workshop with the children of these families about their rights, as well as showing them the wonders of reading.

Throughout this year, Maritza has also continued to take an active role in meetings with UNICEF to support, along with other organisations, their Plan of Action 2013-2014. Furthermore, Roxana took up the invitation to attend the 10th Apthapi International Festival of Storytelling in La Paz in July, where she was able to discover fantastic new ways of engaging children in the art of storytelling and stories, as well as having the opportunity to deliver stories to the assembled children herself. Maritza and I were also able to attend the International Book Fair in Cochabamba in November, where Maritza had been invited to present the innovative strategies that we are using here in Sucre to raise the profile of reading and literacy for local people. This was another excellent opportunity for us to get involved in the powerful grassroots work that is emerging throughout Bolivia, as well as promoting our successes and speaking with many new people who may be able to contribute towards our cause.

Finally, as usual, a lot of our time has been spent working with the generosity of the local people here in Sucre to help support the work that we do. We collected clothing in June from Sucre residents which was then distributed to the community of Poco Poco, a town which is in the process of building its first library. July saw us implementing our campaign “A book for a coat”, where donations of warm clothing were given to the children and families of Santisima Trinidad el 24 Julio School in Pampa Aceituno. Donors in return were gifted a book to thank them for their generosity. We also organised a further event with this community, where students from Simón Rodríguez Secondary School in Sucre collected school materials to be sent there, as well as getting the opportunity to meet students from the primary school and spend an afternoon working with them. We also held an excellent event in Sucre which involved ‘friends of BiblioWorks’ from across the city, where locals and travellers alike were invited to join a bar crawl, with the proceeds going towards our work. It is fantastic to see the support and kindness of the local people here, who continue to help us bring happiness to the lives of the poor rural communities with whom we work.

As you can see, we’ve had an incredibly busy year here in Sucre, and this doesn’t even include all of the wonderful work of our numerous volunteers: they have dedicated weeks and months to working in our libraries and ensuring that they are the wonderful and community strengthening locations that we aim for them to be! We would like to say a heartfelt thank you to all of those who have invested their time and energy into bringing the libraries alive for our many communities in Bolivia; we couldn’t continue to bring a love of books to so many people here without you!

From all of us here at BiblioWorks, we would like to wish a Feliz Navidad to you all, and a huge thank you to the part that you have played in our successes this year; whether through volunteering in a library, supporting us through a donation, or generally helping us to share what we do through word of mouth, your contribution is invaluable.

Best wishes,

Stephanie Dyson

Volunteer and Communications Director at