Issue - May 2009

May 2009


In this issue Christina Moore interviewed the manager of Th'uruch'apitas library; an invitation for CEBID of a National Photography Competition; with mother's day fast approaching, Rachel Dakin writes about Heroinas; a Legacy; Jess Gardner tell us about Proyecto Horizonte in Uspha Uspha; Walter Sanchez with Women Dressed to Enter into History; and finally our Cultural more...

May 2009

Creating a nation of bookworms

“We believe that when a child excitedly leafs through a book, an angel blows the page and turns it.” Gaby Vallejo Canedo.

Christina Moore
Projects Abroad - Volunteer
London - United Kingdom

Gaby Vallejo Canedo is a well-known Bolivian writer, who in 1990, with her team, opened the first library for children in the whole of Bolivia: Biblioteca Th’uruchapitas. This little room that is their base for everything, although modest in size, boasts a collection of 7000 books, which fluctuates as donations are received or books are given out as gifts and prizes. Children are invited to afternoon group reading sessions, and these are loved so much that, as Ms. Vallejo chuckles, “We have some teenagers that have been coming to the library since they were tiny, and when I say: ‘When are you going to stop coming?’ they say: ‘Never!’”

Since the founding of the library the number of projects that come under its umbrella, run by the team of seven ‘retired’ women, has been growing exponentially, as has the workload. Fans of Ms. Vallejo’s writing: do not worry, she somehow always finds time to add to her list of publications, and even had one of her books made into a film.

One of the original programs still run by the team is the ‘Ronda de Libros’ which involves the loan of a selection of books to twentyseven schools, along with trained staff known as ‘animators’ whose role is literally to animate the children. The children are encouraged to discuss what they have read, how it made them feel, which parts made them laugh, why another part shocked them etc. Similarly in Gaby’s own writing for children, she likes to fill her stories with “humour and surprise, creating an impact in children.” More and more schools are getting involved and the walls of Biblioteca Th’uruchapitas are beginning to groan under the pressure as attendance at their meetings swells each time.

As part of this project they offer a select group of thirty or forty children an all-expenses-paid excursion throughout Cochabamba. They visit the house of a children’s writer, go up El Cristo, have a guided tour around a museum, and many other cultural activities that they would probably not otherwise have the opportunity to do.

Another important project, which like Ronda de Libros comes under the programme: ‘Books for All,’ is ‘Para no Estar Solos.’ Through this, books and ‘animation’ are brought to the children of prisoners in Cochabamba. These children generally spend the nights sleeping with their parents in the prison, but during the day they now receive attention from teachers and ‘animators’ who read with them and encourage dialogue, as with the school’s project. In their work with the schools, the library and the children of prisoners, the team take great care to avoid anything homework related. They want to take the them on a journey of discovery through their reading, to “wake them up… and have them say, ‘How interesting, marvelous, beautiful it is to read,’ not to read something that is heavy, boring and obligatory,” explains Ms. Vallejo. In particular with the children of prisoners, they encourage them, through the selected books that they read with them, to think about and talk about their lives and problems that they may have. Using poems and extracts of their thoughts, all written by these children, a little book was published called, “Nosotros somos, aqui estamos.”

“Libros Donde No Hay Libros,” (Books Where There Are No books), is a project that enables this Bolivian writer to get involved in an area that really captures her interest: the indigenous and campesino communities. Working witha volunteer from California who had previously carried out similar work in the United States and Africa, they ran courses teaching a group of forty mothers in Sumumpaya, a region in Cochabamba’s countryside, how to make books out of fabric. They were decorated with other pieces of material, and filled with recipes, customs, stories and descriptions of particular plants or animals for example, all written in Quechua and in indelible ink. These books, which are perfectly designed so that their babies can manhandle them without ruining them, were given to the women as gifts at the end of the course. With the support of the Yamada Fund of Japan, a selection of the fabric books were converted into a paper version which was published. Publishing work that is produced through the various projects is one of the ways in which the team raises funds, which is then spent on more books.

The seven women alone would have never been able to maintain the work they do, but along the way they have gathered other people “who are equally excited about what is done here.” In addition the programme has nurtured ties with larger organizations, and since 1985 has, for example, been closely affiliated with the Swiss-based international organization, IBBY, which does everything to do with children and young adult literature. Other organizations that sponsor their work and provide a source of funding include the afore-mentioned Yamada Fund, as well as the America Global fund. A year ago the America Global fund signed a three-year agreement to provide the money to buy milk, colouring pencils, paper and stationary for the children, as well as teaching aids; “They have offered permanence,” according to Ms Vallejo. Another great help was the $10,000 prize they were awarded at the World Children’s Fair in Italy. However with so many projects there is never enough money, and for them it is simply a matter of taking steps to obtain funds from wherever they can as and when the need arises, maintaining themselves in this way.

In between organising and running the projects, the women are kept very busy attending congresses to learn as much as they can about children’s literature, develop contacts, and promote what they do. In addition most of them work outside of this programme as well, and generally feel grateful to have just one afternoon free in a week. However, as exhausting as it must be, they love it: “This is what fills us. We are happy with what we do,” Gaby Vallejo confides, “We have changed our world and our surroundings, both for ourselves and for others.”

National Photography Competition: “Indigenous Women in the City”

The center of Documentation and
Information of Bolivia (CEDIB)
are hosting a national photography
competition on “native women in the city.”
Whether you are a working professional or
an absolute beginner get creative and get

read more ...

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