When I met Lidia this past January her personality shined through in so many different ways. She said she was shy, but that’s not what I saw in this outspoken 16-year-old from the rural, indigenous Guatemalan community of Chuiquel. She was thoughtful before she spoke, but she raised her hand often to speak and voice her opinion during the group activities. She was nervous in front of my camera, but she eloquently answered my questions because she wanted to have the chance to share her thoughts. She was a bit embarrassed when we sat down to eat lunch because she had never used a knife and fork, but she was eager to at least give it a try.
Lidia is the fourth of nine siblings, but the first to get so far with her studies, currently working to graduate with a specialty in business administration that she says wouldn’t be possible without her Reading Village scholarship. Her older sister didn’t have the option to reach this level of studies because their family couldn’t afford to send her. Outside of her school and Reading Village responsibilities, Lidia happily helps her mother out at home and also adorns the indigenous clothing with Chuiquel’s traditional embroidery designs. Lidia’s biggest dream is to go to university to become an auditor. But, for now, she is very happy leading literacy programs for the younger children in her community as she knows that literacy is one of the best tools to help develop the minds of her young neighbors.
The morning that we met, when I was asked to choose one word that represents happiness to me, something that brings a smile to my face, I chose the word adventure. After the opening ceremony, when we were getting ready to go to lunch, it was Lidia who said, “I want to go an adventure today!” School wasn’t starting until tomorrow and she had permission from her mother to join us for a few extra hours. I was delighted to have the opportunity to have some one-on-one time with her and Sandra, another youth leader. Lidia’s adventure began when we took the girls to a lunch buffet with us. Neither girl had ever been to this buffet (or, presumably any buffet), and they were excited and curious as we walked through the line and I helped them with their choices. Lidia’s shyness showed when she politely asked me not to watch her as she attempted to use a knife and fork for the first time; but, I could see in her determination that this was just part of the adventure for her. After lunch we drove around Chuchexic, a neighboring community where Reading Village also works, but where Lidia and Sandra had never been. And, finally, we found a lovely spot in Chuiquel where we finished our joint adventure with some video interviews of the girls. I felt a kindred spirit in Lidia, down to her happy and, at times, nervous giggles and smiles, her fun-loving, adventurous spirit and her love of dancing, too.
What a treat it was for me to see her again just a few weeks ago during the incredible Learning Journey that she and her peers created for us. They each led us with such eloquence, pride and confidence as they introduced us to their community, their families, their traditions and their work as reading promoters. Lidia was one of two readers during our Reading Fiesta live performance in front of 296 excited young children. Watching her and the other youth leaders in action during the Learning Journey filled me with so much pride and awe. Thanks to their thoughtful preparation and loving spirits, ten of our partners and I had the adventure and experience of a lifetime!
By: Marcella Varley, Development Manager at Reading Village