Hello! My name is Robyn and last week I completed six weeks of volunteering for BiblioWorks, and I must say, it was time very well spent! I arrived in Sucre at the beginning of the term and the libraries were not quite rolling, but I was still able to visit a few communities, meet some children in Morado K’asa, inventory books that will be part of a new collection, and see the enthusiasm that the BiblioWorks staff has for their work.
The first library I visited was in Yamparaéz, which wasn’t open for visitors yet, but this was a great opportunity to see what a typical library is like. Zannah (the Volunteer Coordinator) and I spent some time organizing the books and (me) getting oriented to the community.
We took a micro-bus or a “trufi” to Yamparaéz, which is about 14 miles outside of Sucre. The trufi dropped us off at the edge of the village and, feeling like we were on the set of an old Western, we walked into town.
Drastically different from Sucre, Yamparaéz was similar to what I thought a Bolivian village might be like. I expected to see more people, but apparently most workers go into Sucre or were likely on their farms.
Also, since this was the first day back after the students’ summer break, and classes are held only in the morning, there were no kids around when we went to see the library.
Entrance to the library.
We took a quick look at the school, which was down the road a short distance. Without the students, it was quiet, but it was still good to see the school grounds.
There are a few businesses in Yamparaéz, a town hall building with various offices including the mayor’s office, and an arena. The homes that we saw were made out of clay brick, dirt, adobe or concrete. There were a few buildings that looked uncharacteristically modern.
Walking through the area gave me better idea of the deep need Yamparaéz, and communities like it, have for a functioning and vibrant library. To have staff that understand the people who live there and their literacy needs, as well as support from outside sources such as BiblioWorks and their volunteers, are crucial to the longevity of such a library.
Volunteers play a very important role in this mission. It takes time and effort to get to Sucre, and especially to the small villages, some of which are six hours away by trufi. Volunteering takes a commitment that is so needed to maintain the momentum of the work being done here. But it is worth it. It’s a privilege to be welcomed into these isolated communities, to be part of an effort to promote books and reading, and to experience a part of Bolivia that most travelers will never see. I encourage anyone who has an interest in offering your skills and energy to this kind of work to contact BiblioWorks to see how you can be of service. It will be an experience you’ll never forget.
Zannah and Robyn.