Dear Friends, November 30, 2016 This is One Library At A Time’s yearly fundraising letter. Our mission has grown and more places are asking us to create a library at their location. We hope you can contribute to help us meet the needs. Our mission is to open the world of knowledge to underserved children by creating libraries. How does it work? In the short term, a library provides children respite from a difficult life and access to larger worlds. It enables them to see worlds of which they have not dreamed and to see their own world with greater understanding. In the long term it fosters the possibility of further education and a way to live beyond a hand to mouth existence.
Let me tell you a little bit about our projects during 2016. This year was spent working with the Peace Corps and tagging along with other groups as they were working on projects. Working this way makes our libraries more sustainable because The Peace Corps Volunteers continue to receive new books from other sources and the mission teams continue to bring new books each year they return. We work with the new “librarians” setting up the Dewey Decimal System and they are ready to grow their libraries.
We started the year partnering with Oakhurst Baptist Church in Atlanta going to Perico, Cuba. This was our second library in Cuba and there will be more. One of the leaders in Cuba asked me to create 40 libraries! I responded “One Library At A Time!” We do have 1 more library scheduled this year in Cuba. It will be at a boarding school for the Blind, Deaf/- and or Mute in Matanzas. We’ll work alongside the youth at Oakhurst. Working with Oakhurst has introduced us to Wayne Grinstead who has been to Cuba 12 time and agreed to organize all our Cuban travel. Thank you Wayne!
Sofia is 7 years old. She was in the room as we unpacked 350 books which would become the library in Perico, Cuba. This trip, Oakhurst Baptist Church members managed to bring several books each in their luggage. Sofia eyes grew wide as the books were unpacked. In Cuba, even the children’s books are in black and white with few illustrations. Color printing is costly. Sofia sat quietly as the 10 Cubans and 11 Americans began to work together to create a library. Language was no barrier with the love of reading guiding us all. We used our booklet “How to Build a Library One Library At A Time” in English and Spanish to speak for us. Sofia saw it all. I began to pass her books to read. She quietly read them several times until I handed her a new one. She gathered her courage and approached me. “El gato por favor” she said. The Cat in the Hat with the bright colors had captured her attention. I found it and gave it to her. She read it 7 or 8 times and then read it to Grandma and Dad, other Cuban’s had to stop working so she could read it to them. Another reader was born that day.
We continued this year with a new library in Hinche, Haiti. Most of the children at the school had never held a book. It was our privilege and honor to hand them their first book. We maintain contact with our translators. They report that the children are arriving early and staying late to read. They have formed book clubs. The most amazing thing is that they are writing short reports on the books they read. They do this to share with their friends not as a school assignment!
Despite the Hurricane, the library stayed dry and the people are learning to boil their water so that the cholera epidemic is subsiding.
Panama continues to be a strong partner with us through the Peace Corps. We are allowed us to stay in Peace Corps homes, imbedding us in the community where we work. This creates enthusiasm for the library and gives us free housing, allowing more money to be spent on the libraries. We “rough it” going off the grid where power is unavailable or unreliable. We bathe in streams or by “bucket baths”. It makes even cold showers seam luxurious!
Hector met us at the boat dock each day and helped to carry our supplies into what would become the library. Each day he sat quietly as we passed books to him and he read, breaking only for a quick lunch. As soon as we were ready, he continued to read while we worked and then helped us back to the boat at the end of each work day, waving goodbye and running home to do his chores. Hector was and is one of my inspirations. Paula Womack painted his portrait and we have note cards of Hector for sale 12 for $10.00. Each set we sell pays for 1 new book for a library. Let Hector inspire you to give gifts of the notecards that turn into books! Contact us through phone or email and we will get them to you.
When we were not with the Peace Corps, we traveled with other groups, tagging along on their mission trips. This year we completed two libraries in Panama. The first was with the Peace Corps in Canazas, Panama. While we were still in Panama creating the second library Krystie Guy (the Peace Corp volunteer in Canazas emailed that they had received a micro grant and now have a computer and internet service. The library was growing before we had left the country!
The people of the small, indigenous community of Cañazas are hungry for information. They are constantly asking questions. In the years since the school was founded, and subsequently expanded and improved upon, education has become more and more of a priority. For that reason, among many others, community members and educators alike celebrated the arrival of their first ever public library. As indigenous people in a country that systematically suppresses and devalues native voices, it is important to give the community the tools to empower themselves. That is what One Library at a Time has done and will continue to do through this invaluable resource. We are forever grateful and are constantly looking for ways to ensure that the library continues to grow. Thank you, Krystie Guy
The second library in Panama was created with Asbury United Methodist Church from Lafayette, Louisiana. The library is located near Santiago and is across the street from the elementary school. One of the librarians is a teacher from that school. The library will be a resource for the school as well as the large community. As one of our teacher/librarians Delmis Saucedo said “you cannot imagine how my teaching has changed now that I have books”. This will be a great library.
As for next year, we have scheduled two libraries in Cuba, and two libraries in Panama. We are also looking at sites in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Guatemala and Cameroon. We are trusting that we will be able to raise the funding with your help. If you can donate again we would appreciate it. If you can share our mission with others we would appreciate it. I am available to speak to any group you feel would be interested in hearing our story. And remember it only cost $3,000.00 to create a library.