Issue - March 2009

March 2009


Inside this edition: Sara Vinci give us an interview with Ramon Rocha Monroy; Christina Moore climbs the Bibliobus proposal in an article; Rebecca Wearmouth gives an view about 'An Inconvenient Truth' movie; the Bolivian Scare Crow by Arnold Brouwer; and finally Walter Sanchez tell us about Graphic historyread more...

March 2009

Much More than Books on Wheels

Christina Moore climbs on board the ‘Bibliobús’ to discuss how it will be used to bring a love of reading and much more to many children in outlying Cochabamba.

Christina Moore
Projects Abroad - Volunteer
London - England


From the modest description I had received, I expected to find a tiny taxi-trufi with a handful of books. Instead I was greeted by a charming and shiny ex-micro-trufi, already converted and ready for its new life as a Bibliobús. Hanging on the outside of the door are rows of plastic wallets, displaying an inviting selection of colourful books to entice book-lovers (and even those that feel ambivalent) inside for more. Inside the bus is surprisingly roomy now the seats have been removed, and there is plenty of space to browse the shelves. The plan is to fit in a little table and chair set to give a working and reading area too. Bashful at my admiration, Anne Courreges and Wilberto Fulguera Viraca (Beto), told me they wanted a bigger bus really, but at least it is a start. Kick-off was still a few weeks away when I went to visit them, but it was clear from the amount of preparation already completed that they cannot wait to get started.

The project started with Anne, who feels “a lot of affection for Cochabamba,” and has re-located here from her native France. In September 2007 she came into contact with the French organization Ayni, whose aims are focused on the education of children. They already had a network of four libraries and two popular Bibliobuses; one in Santa Cruz, which has been running for three years now, and one in Sucre. Initially enthusiastic, Ayni pledged support and a salary for Beto to work six days per week with the Bibliobús. The agreement was due to be formalized in December, but as yet the team are still waiting. However, they are adamant that either way they will push forward with the plans to start running the service in March, despite the fact that it will be a frustrating and difficult journey; without a salary Beto will have to continue with his existing two jobs at the same time. “We have already lost so much time,” Anne laments, “It is a complicated situation.”

With their smart little bus, Anne and Beto will be visiting four locations on the periphery of Cochabamba, spending a day at each one, and starting the loop again each week. In a lot of places, in particular in the outlying regions of Cochabamba, people have limited access to reading materials, and Beto himself recalls experiencing the same in his own childhood. He has since made up for this with an as yet modest collection of books in his house which is used by his friends as a library. He elaborates that people often do not understand the problem, “They say, ‘We have one book in the house, that is enough.” The Bibliobús will provide a selection of books so that children can “come and look at all the books and find one that they actually really want to read.” Anne and Beto hope that the children will grow to love reading as much as they and Beto’s own children do, and equally to understand its importance.

In December 2008 through the “Yes I can” campaign, Bolivia was declared officially illiteracy free, which according to Unesco standards, means 96% of its population over the age of 15 can read and write. Anne and Beto are happy to see progress, although they feel that there is more to be made. “Some adults know now how to write their names and important words, and they can recognise the letters, but they are still not fully comprehending what they are reading,” explains Beto, and the same is applicable for children. Part of the problem is “the way of teaching, which tends to involve a lot of repetition, parrot-style,” Anne adds. In particular it is females who suffer, as they are encouraged to concentrate on housework and chores rather than going to school and getting an education. Anne and Beto are keen to get the parents involved in the scheme, and will include some adult books in the selection, as well as newspapers, but as Anne emphasizes, “This is not a literacy programme, and our focus is not adults and older people. This is for children, adolescents – the youth.”

As well as working on reading and comprehension, the project will be offering homework support. So far the bus already has a growing stack of story-books, but is lacking textbooks on subjects such as mathematics and the sciences. However without the resources to buy them they will have to rely on donations. Another limiting factor, especially while they just have the small bus, will be lack of space. Many children have nowhere to do their homework; no table at home, no quiet place to sit. For this reason, the team will be pushing for the establishment of permanent libraries. Beto, a Cochabambino, recalls that it was through his experience working in a library that he came to realize the importance of the facility. He describes how “All the children would arrive at the library early, in groups, to secure a table to work, and they would be enthusiastically discussing and studying and borrowing dictionaries or stationary or whatever they needed.” They argue that there are the funds to provide permanent libraries, but developmental works favor infrastructure like roads that “call out more loudly”, whereas a library, according to Beto, is “a silent but important necessity.” Beto is resigned to the whole process being neither quick nor smooth; he has previously been involved in the founding of a local library and it took years before it was complete and the paperwork was finally in order. Once they have successfully set up permanent libraries in the four initial locations, they will move onto new areas and start again.

Eventually this will be more than just a library project; Anne and Beto dream of being able to make a more significant difference in the lives of the children. The team hopes to obtain the resources to use videos to consolidate nutritional lessons as well as “developing the sensitivity” of the children to themes such as human rights and the environment. In addition they aim to combine videos and story books, as they recognise that sometimes comprehension is better visually. Other proposed projects include day trips and supporting the artistic and creative development of the children, ideally all to a background of music. Anne describes their vision as a “utopia that little by little we will step towards”.

Anne and Beto are part of a team which encompasses a broad spectrum of expertise that will help them to achieve these goals. This includes Miriam, a biology teacher, and a couple who are both artists and have experience working with various ages on projects such as mural painting. The team’s dedication is faultless, but they are all subject to time limitations, and on top of this are not all able to commit long-term. For this reason they are eager to recruit more people, volunteers or otherwise, who can bring their own field of expertise. Beto adds “Even if someone could offer just a couple of hours a day to do a workshop with the children that would be a big help.”

The Bibliobús team are anticipating donations from the Rotary Club, but other than this their main source of support is from friends. As they talk about the possibilities, Beto and Anne can barely contain their excitement, but at the same time they know that they will need more backing if they are going to be able to take this project as far as they hope. They are aware that a lot of what they can achieve is dependent on the agreements and arrangementsthat can be made with bigger organizations. Beto sighs, “It started as a dream, and oh, if only we can realize this dream,” but already they are, “little by little, making progress, and now we can see the potential for what we can achieve.” Anne compares the process to “a virus that spreads among people, so that if one person learns to love reading, the other people begin to see how important it is too.”

You can contact Anne and Beto at:

Scaring the Dutch and Bolivian Crows

The first contest was between the Bolivian ¨Eusebio Tudela Tapia 1¨ (a school in the 9th district of Cochabamba) and the Dutch school ¨De Elstar¨ from Elst. Although all three scarecrows were masterpieces, the Tudela Tapia scarecrows won the first contest due to their very strong colours, and a remarkable resemblence to a real man. As a member of the jury put it, “I would not want to meet these guys (scarecrows) at night in a dark alley.”

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