Two new libraries once again show the power of community leadership

This past summer, two new educate.-funded libraries were inaugurated in Honduras. Both were located at small, rural public primary schools, where one teacher has all students from first through sixth grade in a single classroom – no small feat, especially with the limited resources both of these schools struggle with. Both projects were also led by local project committees who had been working hard for an entire year to plan their libraries and to raise a portion of the necessary funds for the project. Deep community involvement and local leadership formed the basis of these projects, and it has been incredible seeing the hard work of these communities come to fruition.

The first library was the Las Lagunas primary school in Arada, Santa Bárbara, a village located by two sparkling lakes in the hills of one of Honduras’ coffee-growing regions. Over the course of a week, the community of Las Lagunas came together to paint, organize, set up and inaugurate their new library. 

The painting phase was a wonderful kind of chaos: paint everywhere, kids hanging off ladders, and children buzzing with excitement. With some help from local artist and friend ChoChe, murals went up across the library’s previously empty walls. Mothers, fathers, community members and every single child at the school took part in painting the space, making it truly their own.

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The library inauguration was held outside the school. Chairs and tables were carried out, decorations put up, and speeches were held. As part of the inauguration ceremony, there was also a reading contest, where students read aloud a text and the winner from each grade became their grades’ representative in a new “Reading Club,” designed to give students leadership responsibilities in looking after the library and supporting their peers in reading. 

In second grade, the winner was Pedro, a boy who, only last year, had not wanted to go to school at all. The community’s teacher, Lorena (you can see her laughing in the background of the photo below) convinced him to keep coming, and at the ceremony he became his grade’s representative in the new reading club. He beamed as he came and stood in front of his peers and other members of the community who had come for the ceremony, and in that smile, you could feel just how proud he was of this accomplishment.

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Pedro after winning the Grade 2 reading competition

The honour of cutting the ribbon at the ceremony went to Carlitos and Claudia, two first graders. The thick blue and white ribbon stretched in front of all the students, and the rest of the community gathered to watch. Laughter ensued when they struggled, little hands unable to get the adult-sized scissors to cut the ribbon. With a bit of help and a lot of concentration in their faces, Carlitos and Claudia cut through the ribbon and everyone clapped as both sides fell away. Everyone took home a piece of the ribbon as a souvenir.

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Antonia helps Carlitos and Claudia hold the scissors

The president of the Las Lagunas library committee, Walter was one of the hearts and souls of this project. He is the kind of person whose eyes sparkle when he speaks and whose passion is contagious when he talks about education, the environment and the importance of working with youth. Walter has ended up joining the educate. Team, becoming our first on the ground project coordinator! His experience leading his community on this project has inspired him to start working with other communities, and we are excited to be able to share some updates on new projects very soon. 

Already, the library has been used in incredibly creative ways by Lorena, the school’s teacher. In a return visit several weeks after the inauguration, the students showed us how they were each compiling the literacy activities and exercises they completed in a folder – activities such as coming up with alternative story endings, pictures dividing the stories they read into 3 parts, and drawings with summaries, descriptions and short opinion pieces. The library is being used on a daily basis, with parents and siblings invited in for family reading time every Thursday.

 

Check out a video of the project here!

 


The second library that was inaugurated this summer was in La Florida, a village located three hours by horseback into the mountain of Olancho. The journey up to the village was an experience in itself!

Once again, driven by our strong belief in the importance of involving the community in every process of the creation of our libraries, we were adamant to get as many parents and community members as possible in La Florida to pick up paintbrushes during the mural painting process (it’s easy enough to get the kids painting, but involving the adults in the community takes a little more effort!). It started as it often does, with the mothers standing outside, curiously watching us mixing paint and talking to the children about the natural forms of flowers and how to best hold the small paintbrushes, reluctant to even enter the space. Slowly, and with some encouragement, first one and them more mothers began to take up paintbrushes and join the students in painting the “tree of literature” that they had decided on. This process of transforming an empty room into a library was one of laughter, high energy, magic, chaos and amazement.

For the inauguration ceremony, Nery, the school’s teacher, had organised a “games fair” (feria de juegos) with different stations set up and students leading each of the games. Winners would get tokens which could be cashed in for pencils, pens, pencil sharpeners, or even a phone top-up of 25 lempiras (The equivalent of about $1)! There was music playing, the school was filled with families and members of the community, and everyone was buzzing. 

The ceremony started with some words from Nery and the 6th grade student Yeni, who both expressed their deep belief in the importance of reading and the world of imagination that these books would open for the students at this school. Nery said that as a teacher, to have a library with such a selection of books had always been a dream of his. “Today this dream has come true,” he said.

The students at the La Florida school also wrote their own rules for the library, which were put up on the wall as a reminder of how they had agreed to use the space.

Here is a video from the project:

 

Working with these two communities over the past year has been truly inspiring. Thank you to each and every person who has been a part of these projects – teachers Lorena and Nerry, parents who were involved in fundraising in their communities, everyone who came along to paint the spaces, the carpenters who made the shelves, and all the volunteers and donors around the world who helped with raising the funds to make these projects possible. Special thanks to Students for Children for their invaluable support. In these projects we have seen communities come together to create incredible learning spaces, reinforcing once again the power not only of books, reading and education, but of genuine community leadership.

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