Otto René Castillo Community Library
The Escuela de la Montaña works closely with local communities to support educational projects. We have a scholarship program to support families who cannot otherwise afford to send their children to secondary school (many middle and high schools in Guatemala are privately run and charge tuition fees). However, the scholarship program alone was not enough to significantly boost literacy and education in this area. Local families are very poor. In most houses there are no books and no access to study materials. Also, most families have little space in their homes for their children to read or study. Most homes are two room houses, built of concrete block, and house up to 15 people, and even with electricity- which is very expensive - most rooms are dark, with only one light bulb.
Sadly, local schools also have minimal resources. There is very little governmental support of the schools, and many children leave school without ever having read an entire book. Even in the classroom, children and teenagers have no access to dictionaries, encyclopaedias, nor other reference materials, and even less access to reading books and literature.
For this reason, we decided to raise funds to build and set up a community library. Thanks to the support of several institutions and individuals, we opened the library in June 2012. It is now open daily Monday through Friday February - November (to cover the school year) for students of all ages and everyone in the surrounding communities (in total about 5,000 inhabitants). Primary school groups visit the library for reading and literacy promoting activities, and local children and teenagers also come to read and study here. The library offers daily activities for children, and a weekly activity for youth focused on learning about the ecology. Often Mountain School students volunteer at the library, reading to local kids, helping kids and teenagers with homework and organizing fun and educational activities there.
The idea to build a library for the local communities came about in 2007. Since then we have been working with local families, the PLQ, and donors to build, furnish, stock and open the community library "Otto René Castillo". We received donations from the Calgary Rotary Club, Proyecto Lingüístico Quetzalteco and funds raised by former students of the Escuela de la Montaña to build the library and obtain some books and furniture. We started building the library in February 2011, with the help of many student and local volunteers and we finished in May 2012. We opened the ground floor at the end of June 2012. (See photos) At first, the library was run by volunteers, especially a former student Adi, who worked very hard to organize activities and get everything in place to open the library. In September 2012 we hired a local teacher, Elida, to run the library.
Early in 2013 we received funds from the Hans Boekler Foundation to buy a photocopier, along with many more educational books specifically for Guatemalan primary and secondary school curriculi, and to build more bookshelves. The ground floor now has six bookshelves with over 1,000 books and tables and chairs.
We are still in the process of buying more books and other things for the library. We need more Guatemalan school textbooks and educational and other books. We gladly accept book donations for the community library (of books in Spanish, Maya-mam and bilingual books with Spanish & English - but not books in English because local people cannot read them).
In 2015 we received an additional grant from the Calgary Rotary Club for more educational books, tables, children's chairs, pillow chairs, goal posts for our small football field, and more. We appreciate this continuing support.
A big thank you to everyone who made this dream a reality!