We were in Chuiquel today, the newest of the communities. The room was beautifully decorated with bouquets of flowers that Ana (our Community Facilitator) had picked herself, pine needles strewn on the floor, and balloons and crepe paper adorning the walls. The classroom was transformed into a space of celebration.
In attendance were all of the current promoters, the new promoters who will begin in 2015, parents of all the current promoters, the representatives of the COCODE, teachers, a handful of promoters from Chuacruz (who decided to celebrate with their friends and walked all the way there! It must be an hour and a half walk at least)! Promoters David and Thelma served as MCs. I was so impressed by the ease of their presence speaking in front of a large group of adults — after just one year in the program. They had 10 points about the importance of reading and with each one read aloud by Thelma, she invited a promoter, a new promoter, a mother or father, a community leader, a teacher, Larry, me —a representative voice from every group in the room — to say a few words. As Larry says, each person narrates the community into being. They are telling a new story about who they are and what they believe in. I was pleased to see so much visible pride for the teens and their work.
At one point, there was a bit of technical trouble getting the digital projector to work and one of our scholars, David, started speaking extemporaneously and very animatedly about how we do our work. He talked about how he was treated as a student and imitated teachers doing all the talking and kids only listening or taking dictation. That the teachers showed him no love or concern. And they corrected him with slaps to the head.
“This is not how we work with students,” he said. “We greet the children with hugs and love. We ask them how they are. We play with them, and they learn while playing. We reflect together on the story that was read and the children participate.” “We teens are often very quiet and timid because we grew up in this system, but Reading Village has given us our voices again.”
If you haven’t guessed already, this is the point where tears came to my eyes. Watching this young man after just one year in our program speaking off the cuff and doing an excellent job of reflecting what he learned this year about Popular Education and empathy as the root of all change…I was so moved and proud.
– Linda Smith, Executive Director of Reading Village