It’s dusk in Guatemala and I’m writing now from beneath a palm-thatch bungalow that creeks and blows in the wind. The air no longer smells like sweet onions and humidity blows in off the lake. We came down off the mountain today to the edge of the lake to greet the 10 or so brave souls who have traveled from the United States to Guatemala to experience our work first hand.
We thank our lucky stars every day that we have met such caring, passionate, and curious people who are willing to travel a world away to put faces to names that they have long heard and to meet scholars in whom they’ve already invested. Hear me when I say, the world is a better place because of these souls.
So here I am, in a quiet moment after a busy day. It’s the first real day of the Learning Journey, and there’s already so much to digest. The travelers, we’ll call them, have spent the past hour listening to some of our staff share stories about how they came to work with Reading Village and the impact of this organization on these communities. We heard Linda, our Founder and Executive Director, recount the sparks she saw in a Guatemalan child’s eyes when he picked up his first book. We heard Daniel, our Program Director, describe the trust that we have built in these communities and all of the impromptu speeches he is asked to give as the result of this respect we have gained. “We’re small,” he told us, “but we’re powerful.” And we heard from Ismael, our Community Facilitator, who was born and raised in these same communities. Having not started school himself until the age of ten, he told us how his dreams grew and possibilities expanded with every year of schooling he achieved.
And then as quickly as the chocolate eclairs were consumed our hour was up and stomachs were grumbling. Folks drifted from the table and the words settled around me.
This work is BIG.
I’ve seen it for just four days and most of these travelers will see it for the first time tomorrow. In the stories of the staff and the reactions of their faces, you can tell that some of them have already begun to understand. This is, after all, a diverse bunch of board members, long time supporters, as well as new and old friends. But it is only after you’ve been there – to Chuacruz and Los Morales and Concepcion – after you’ve driven the dirt roads, and sat in the schools, and shared meals with these scholars that you can begin to fully appreciate all that is happening. Literacy is going to change lives, it already has. Trust me, you’ll see.
Kassia (Your camera-slinging and word-smithing Director of Communications)