On the last day in Concepcion we all wrote little notes to each other, teens to visitors and visitors to teens. Most of the notes I received were lovely expressions of love and gratitude. But one stood out to me.
Camilo lives on the outskirts of Concepcion, a place up above the valley where life is harder and the economic struggle is greater. Those who live in the center of Concepcion think less of the people from this community. But in our program Camilo has become a leader among leaders. He stands out from the others with his clear-minded, gentle and inclusive leadership. His note to me did not start with gratitude for his scholarship or thanks for what the program has given him. His note read “I feel very, very, very proud of the work that we [youth leaders] do. But thank you for the support you all give us.”He put himself and his fellow reading promoters first and Reading Village second! This is exactly the way I see the program and was so pleased to see this expressed in Camilo’s note.
I often start to feel uncomfortable when heaps of praise and thanks comes my way from parents and teens. I accept it gracefully knowing their gratitude is genuine, but then I add, “Reading Village put an opportunity in front of you, but you did the work. Not me. You went to school. You did your homework and passed your classes. You attended leadership workshops and read 3 hours a week to the children. You are the one creating a culture of literacy in this community and a better future for all.” Camilo’s note shows that he understands this. He can see Reading Village outside the typical paradigm of rich people giving to poor and knows that we walk alongside him and his peers as they transform lives in their community.