What a welcome! Upon arrival in the hilly town of Chuiquel we were greeted like family with hugs and flowers from the fourteen youth leaders who participate in Reading Village’s Leaders and Readers program in this village. Chuiquel is off the beaten path and almost never sees outsiders, let alone a group from another country. So along with the teens were proud community leaders, school teachers and principals to honor our arrival.
The youth leaders immediately took charge, inviting us onto the school playground where they led us in a series of fun activities to help break the ice.
Mayan settlements tend to be small and scattered so we covered a lot of ground today physically and also in knowledge gained. We learned from Irma’s family how they grow peaches and from Martin’s family the rituals and traditions involved in cultivating corn. This knowledge has been passed down for generations and it was an honor to gain insight into their family life and historic culture. The teens then led us on a walking tour of the different sectors of the village, giving us the opportunity to get to know them better as we walked.
When we came to the end of the tour, the youth leaders shared the changes they have seen in their community in the last two and a half years as a result of their reading to children. They shared stories of children building Spanish vocabularies, gaining the confidence to speak up to share their opinions, and learning to love to read. And they cast their visions for the future of Chuiquel – when all parents can read and read to their children, when all children go to school and gain a high school diploma. Their self-confidence, leadership and passion inspired us.