A Reading Festival in Yapalmech

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We had so much fun — and so did the kids! By the end of the week we had over 80 kids showing up more than an hour in advance to read and do activities. We achieved our goal in that we were successful in associating reading with fun for these kids.

A little background and more detail on the week…

Yapalmech is a community of about 2000 people. It lies 3 hours from the nearest large city, Coban. The adults in this community fled Guatemala during the 36-year civil war and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Honduras. Sister Juanita, the Catholic nun working with this community (originally from Wisconsin) has been with this community for over 20 years, beginning in the days of their exile.

There was nothing in Yapalmech when they arrived — no houses, no buildings, no electricity. There is a community now, but they still have no running water (it´s all drawn from wells) and no paved roads. Along with the locals we contended with the mud all week.

Sister Juanita has a PA system that reaches into the community and she makes periodic announcements: someone has a phone call, catechism at 8:00 the next morning, reading activities for school-aged children…

40-some-odd kids showed up the first day. This number grew to over 80 by the last day. I guess we were doing something right!

One of the books we read was called Pedro Pedrito. It´s about a rich man who hordes his money, spending none of it even to feed his wife. Skinny as a stick, she leaves him and then he misses her so she comes back and he learns how to be a giving person. I asked the kids what they would buy if they had the money of Pedro Pedrito. Their answers surprised me. I expected kids who had literally nothing to rattle off a list of things they´d want. But I got very few answers and they were things like food, shoes, clothes, a cow…It´s refreshing to find a group of kids that are not inundated by our commercial culture that teaches us to want more and more, but it is sad that they are completely unaware of what the world at large has to offer them.

We brought a large donation of story books and single-volume encyclopedias on biographies, science, and geography. Sister Juanita has a small collection of books she loans out to the kids. Some of the older kids have read all the books in the collection! We read to the kids, led arts and crafts activities, songs and games. We encourged them to read a little bit every day. And on the last day a dozen kids stayed after the activities were over to sit and read. It was the most precious moment of the week, the hum of their sweet voices reading quietly to themselves.

Enjoy the photos and thanks for your support in making this happen.

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