On a site visit last month I found myself in Chaquijya observing our youth leaders doing reading activities with young children. It’s always refreshing to be back in the field, witnessing the impact of our work first hand and building relationships in new communities.
Chaquijya is our newest partner community in Guatemala, and it’s really quite exceptional. They are very poor – like all of the communities in which we work – but the kids get a full lunch every Wednesday and a substantial snack the other days. Schools in Guatemala do not usually serve meals as the children study a half day and go home, usually without having eaten breakfast. I asked where the money for this comes from, and I was told the parents chip in. An impressive contribution from families surviving on just a few dollars a day!
As if I wasn’t already impressed, the teachers were eager to tell me how much good the Reading Village program is doing. The second grade teacher shared a particularly powerful example. She said she requires the children to present to the rest of the class, a teaching tool that is very common across Guatemala. She said prior to our Leaders and Readers program being present in her classroom, the children would stand with their hands behind their backs and back themselves up against a wall. They were visibly apprehensive to stand in front of their peers. Now, she says, just a few months after your youth leaders began reading with these students on a regular basis they can express themselves; they are not shy.
It’s been a while since I’ve visited one of our partner communities that has only new youth leaders. Chaquijya is one such community and stories like this leave me proud of our staff and teens for rising to the challenge. One youth leader, Angelica, laughed as she shared with me that she was so nervous she was during her first reading session that she read quickly enough to read the story three times over in her very short visit. It’s clear that these nerves have subsided and that our youth leaders are rising to the occassion and coming into their own. I left without a shadow of a doubt knowing that they are doing well and that Chaquijya is going to be transformed by our impact for years to come.
By: Linda Smith, Founder & Executive Director of Reading Village