Last week, we were honored to be asked to present the Chispa Project perspective on sustainable libraries at the XIII Jornada de Bibliotecología en Honduras (the XIII Conference for Librarianship in Honduras), where we connected with librarians, teachers, administrators, lawyers, and above all, people passionate about literacy and access to resources, from all across Honduras.
The answer? Each one is a tool that librarians can use to make information resources more accessible for the populations they serve. At its heart, a librarian's position is truly one of service, connecting readers and library users to the information they need to be successful. Whether success means translating a text to brail or to an auditory format, showing readers an app that can help them access the information that they need, or helping a reader to recognize valid sources of information, all are aspects of literacy and knowledge building.
Over the three-day conference, attendees learned about automating their library inventories, about different activities to engage the readers’ interests, about how Instagram can help connect with readers, about appropriate times to photocopy texts, how to create short user-friendly videos and so much more. But more so than anything else the conference was a reminder that until information is applied, it is data and nothing more. The job of the librarian is to facilitate readers in identifying, evaluating, and applying the information that they encounter so that it becomes knowledge and practice.
The Asociacion de Bibliotecarios y Documentalistas de Honduras (ABIDH) is a group of indvidiuals who see themselves as the gatekeepers to knowledge and learning for their country. They are confronted this year with two enormous tasks: combining traditional library norms with the technology focused demands of incoming readers, making information resources available and accessible to all students in Honduras. These leaders of schools and communities feel very much up to the challenges at hand, as they joked frequently throughout the conference "[Librarians] learned the advantages of sharing resources and working as a team far before many other professions." Adelante, equipo, to a Honduras with more libraries and more learning for all!
Today we said goodbye to Joey Torres, a pastor, friend, and third year PhD student studying the intersection of race and Evangelical Christianity at the University of California, Davis. Joey spent two months volunteering with us-- during which he slept in 10 different beds, visited towns and cities from coast to coast, took his first ferry ride, sat in on countless meetings, tried all of the food, and helped us bring children’s books to students in three different schools. Here Joey shares a list of his five favorite firsts that he experienced while here in Honduras:
1) Baleadas: You wouldn’t think baleadas would be as profound of an experience as they are. At their most basic, they are refried beans, a sprinkle of hard salty cheese, and crema (kind of like sour cream) folded into a thick flour tortilla. But, this simple little street food is a game changer. Maybe it’s the fold instead of the wrap. Maybe it’s the lard in the beans. Maybe it’s the fresh-off-the-grill tortilla. Who can tell. I haven’t let myself overthink it too much. I just simply enjoy. The first time I heard of these, I thought, ‘hmm. That’s a bean burrito,’ but no, my friends. It’s so much more.
2) “Cheque”: “Cheque” is go-to phrase for all Hondurans. It’s means “okay” and is the word I hear most. If I am being honest, I actually like the long version, which is “cheque leque panqueque.” It’s sort of like “okie dokie, artichokie,” but catchier. When you use it, Hondurans light up because they know that, not only are you speaking Spanish, you’re speaking Honduran.
3) Honduran coffee: It seems inevitable that I’ve had Honduran coffee before. However, coffee here is especially cultural. It’s like eating pasta in Italy, or eating green chile in New Mexico. The land, itself, offers the product in its best form. And Hondurans love their coffee. Each region believes its coffee is best, but it seems like none is better than Marcala, a city just northwest of Tegucigalpa. The coffee is well-roasted but not burned. It has a strong, fruity aftertaste, and it’s obviously very fresh. I can’t say that I’ve thought too much about the origin of my coffee, something of which I think many people from the US are guilty. Being here, though, and experiencing the love that Honduran farmers have for their coffee, has created in me a newfound appreciation for knowing the story.
4) Geckos: Honduras has a unique relationship with their geckos. And how could you not? They are in virtually every room of every living space with a window. I’ve seen them in kitchens, bathrooms, and in bed sheets. I can’t say I’m in love with them but I can say that I appreciate them. They remind you that the sun has set, that they’re hungry, and that there could be a lot more cockroaches and mosquitoes if I’m not careful.
5) Children’s books in Spanish: Admittedly, I hadn’t thought too much about spanish language books for kids across the world. It’s definitely something I’ve taken for granted in the educational process. However, seeing kids’ faces shine as they read you their favorite part of their favorite book is truly a gift. They’re also good for me as I have practiced my very elementary Spanish. I have loved being surrounded by their words and the great effect these books have on the kids here in Honduras.
Thank for for the laughs, the new experiences, and the memories, Joey. We miss you already!
...and all through the school, students showed off their new backpacks, trying to play it cool;
the books were placed in the library with care, in the hopes that la Famosa Lucia would soon be there;
the students then traveled from station to station, entering a new world full of books and imagination.
Located just north of Lago de Yoga, Honduras’ largest lake, lies a town called Rio Lindo, where you can find Eagles Academy, a small bilingual school with big personality.
The Honduran school year usually runs from February until November, but many bilingual and private schools run from late August until June, similar to schools in the US. This Monday, Eagles Academy celebrated the first day of the 2018-2019 school year with the inauguration of their new library, now complete with murals, posters, and new books to add to the growing collection!
Normally, when we inaugurate a library, we ask for teacher and parent volunteers to help us run our seven different literacy based stations, but Eagles Academy chose to call upon a group of their 10th graders to take on the leadership role.
We know what you might be thinking. “You put high schoolers in charge?!” And you would be correct; we put a group of capable, imaginative, and hard working high schoolers in charge of showing their young counterparts just how much you can learn from a book.
When we asked some of our helpers to tell us about their dreams, we received so many different answers. From teachers to biologists to graphic designers. Each one with special talents to share with the primary schoolers. Thanks to their support, the library inauguration was a huge success!
Congratulations to all of the students, parents, teachers, and community members in Rio Lindo who put in the hard work to make the inauguration day a success. Now, time to get reading!
We sat down with Chispa Project board member Dr. Cynthia Chasteen to learn about her book preferences, how she finds balance, and how she lives the Chispa Project mission in her everyday life.
Cynthia Chasteen is a teacher trainer specializing in teaching English as a second language (TESOL), and a yoga and mindfulness teacher based out of Columbus, Missouri. Last week she took a “vacation” from her packed schedule to come volunteer with us for the week! Cynthia’s whirlwind trip included teacher trainings, trainings for guardians at a children’s home, hiking, teaching yoga classes for Chispa Project employees, and putting labels on almost 300 books.
So tell us a little about yourself, what got you to where you are now?
“One of my first loves was sports. I studied journalism at Auburn for undergrad, but one of my proudest moments as a student was when my fellow women’s club soccer players and I filed and won the Title IX suit that went on the establish the intercollegiate women’s soccer program at Auburn. I minored in Spanish and spent 8 years teaching K-12 at a local elementary school, and went on to pursuit my Masters in education. During my studies I took a TESOL class and was inspired by my professor to continue my studies with a PhD in teaching & learning processes directly following my Masters.”
“Now, my job looks different every day. I work as an adjunct professor at the University of Missouri St. Louis & Columbia, and I am the Migrant English Language Learning (MELL) instructional specialist for 31 Missouri counties. On a given day, I could be teaching both online and in-person classes, presenting school wide professional developments, or working one on one with admins-- all while leaving time to teach yoga and mindfulness for both children and adults, and (finally) some gym time for me."
How do you find balance in all that?
“There’s a yoga path called Karmic Yoga that I try to follow, it’s the yoga of selfless service. My time is one of the most valuable things that I have to give, so I try to give as much as I can. Karmic Yoga challenges me to look at my motivation for what I do, and to try to give myself and my time in an altruistic way. That’s one of the reasons that I chose to come here to Honduras for the week. I choose to give my time to be here on the ground, to play a supporting role and to experience the type of work Chispa Proejct does day to day.
Going off of that, how to you try to live the Chispa Project mission in your daily life?
“Students have a legal right to equitable education. That means meeting students where they are, and providing them with the appropriate resources to get them where they need to be.”
“One of my ongoing projects is creating a bilingual lending library in one of the locations where I work. Bi-literacy is so important, I want my students to be successful in the majority English Speaking system that they are in, but I want just as much for my students to have materials to read in their first language.”
What are you reading right now?
“The book I'm currently reading is the Vedanta Treatise by Swami Parthasarathy. The message of Vedanta is: “What is that which, by being known, everything else becomes known.” Really the book is about living your life in a very conscious, intentional way.”
“I also try to read the books that I can then recommend to the teachers that I train. My hope is that those teachers will then put together libraries that are representative of the students that they teach. I just finished I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sánchez.”
What was the last gift you gave?
“Appropriately enough, the last gift I gave was a book. The book is called the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The funny thing about this gift was that it was my second time gifting this book to the same person! I had given him the book before, and then someone had borrowed (read: taken and never returned) the book from him before he ever got the chance to read it. I actually give this book as a gift often, it talks about four very practical agreements to make with yourself for living your life, all based on Toltec wisdom.”
Would you rather read your favorite book over again or read a new book?
“I am always on the lookout for new things to try and experience, so I would definitely say read a new book. I love looking for titles that are new to me or new in general. Lately I’ve been going back through college classics that I never got the chance to read.”
Thank you, Cynthia, for your lessons in Yoga practice and in life practice!
We are grateful that Cynthia’s path led her here to experience Honduras for the first time. If Cynthia’s story has inspired you to make your own volunteer trip to work with us, find more information here. Donate to help bring students the equitable education that they deserve here.
How do you live the Chispa Project mission in your daily life? Leave us your comments below.
The school is quiet after a long day of book organizing, shelf building, painting, and planning. The new library at Centro Educativo Básico Tim Hines is complete and the only sounds to be heard in the library are the wind rushing through the trees outside, and the scrapes of paper across paper as one of our teenage helpers turns the pages of one of his new books. This library is thanks to the hard work of so many community volunteers, the local committee and staff, and One Earth Foundation who sponsored the school and came to volunteer in organizing the spaces.
Elephants, Hippos, and middle schoolers, oh my!
Located high in the mountains outside of Tegucigalpa, Colonia Mirador del Oriente is found on a rocky hilltop with a steep drop on both sides, a chilly wind breezing through the buildings, and stunning views of the valley below. Centro Básico Tim Hines (named after an American missionary) sits on top of the ridge, and opens its door every day to almost 500 students between 1st and 9th grade. On the day of their library inauguration, students had the opportunity to explore their new space, and their new books, for the first time. You would think that at 13 and 14, some of the 9th graders would be “too cool” to snuggle into the new reading corners with a good book, right? But at the end of this day, students, anywhere from the ages 6 to 13, were curled up on their brand-new cushions. They were completely absorbed in the stories in their hands.
"Many people who come to see our school think it is a private school because we have worked hard to make it a beautiful space” -Prof. Jackie
Prof. Jackie, one of the administrators at CEB Tim Hines, is a force to be reckoned with; she and the other educators at Tim Hines are intensely proud of their school and of their new library. The walls of the school and library are filled with color, and now each classroom has its own reading corner. Chispa Project worked alongside the educators at Tim Hines over a months-long process to provide training for parents, school staff, and the students on how to take care of their new library space, and how to integrate literacy based learning into all aspects of teaching. The students and their families now have access to over 500 different titles, each an adventure waiting to be had!
Interesting in sponsoring your own library? Contact us here. Interesting in joining us for your own short term volunteer project? Check out past projects and ideas here.
Grandmother's house" may have been quite a trip in the popular children's song, but she's got nothing on this school in Santa Maria, La Paz. The beautiful but steep road leads us from one mountain top to another, crossing a river in the bottom of the valley to the Jose Cecilio del Valle School, grades 1 - 6 with over 150 students.
This school was chosen by our co-sponsor Leifheit Campus, in Germany, where one of the German teachers, Diana Klein, had previously worked as a volunteer in this Honduras school. Now, after months of planning, it's time to inaugurate this school with 650 new books of different titles!
After a school applies with Chispa, the school forms a committee of teachers and parents who then create the policies and layout of the library program. This school decided they wanted a central library, and they worked with the parents to mount a division wall in a previous storage room.
We also decided to create reading corners in each classroom. Every week students will go to the library and then borrow books to bring back to their classroom and share throughout the week. Parent and student volunteers helped paint the reading corners, and assembled bookshelves.
The inauguration is always a favorite part, where the students rotate through reading activity stations all day. The students received a "passport" and then proceeded to each station to receive a stamp. Each station presents a different kind of book and a craft or activity. Here, the students explored the virtual world of the night sky and Greek mythology, science experiments about static electricity, and even made their own snowflakes.
Congratulations to all the students, parents and teachers here in Honduras, but as well to all the teachers, students and parents in Germany who helped make this dream a reality for these students to have access to their school's first children's books!
Have you ever asked yourself how you, as an individual, can make a life-changing difference in the world? The question can be intimidating, especially since our culture promotes the heroic narrative of one single person making a world-changing impact.
It’s a question I ask myself as I ride along with volunteers from the Chispa Project, a charity my daughter founded in 2014 to start children’s libraries in Honduras.
Today, we head for Rancho Santa Fe, a 250-acre campus an hour out of Tegucigalpa. It’s one of several children’s homes maintained by NPH Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH), literally meaning “our little brothers and sisters.” Started by the Rev. William Wasson in 1954, the charity embraces Catholic values, but remains an unaffiliated private institution.
We bounce along dirt roads for about five minutes until we arrive at a group of buildings set on a hill. Each building contains four dormitories. There are about 260 boys and girls who make their home in this vast wooded oasis.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the children are not sad, starving orphans. They dance about our car while others stand aside and giggle incessantly. However, most give us a respectful distance as we unload.
We’ve come to deliver a 900-book library to this campus, possibly a life-changing thing. Yet first, Sara assigns me the most laborious task — using my laptop computer to enter every book title onto a spreadsheet.
My seemingly meaningless task leaves me feeling dwarfed in the shadow of NPH. The charity has made a huge difference all over Central and South America, caring for thousands of orphans and abandoned children. Chispa means “spark” in Spanish, but I feel more like a small speck than a spark.
I begin my task on an outside patio where a few kids stop for brief moments, leaning over the boxes, yearning to pull out a book. However, I wave them off, like a cook not finished with his creation.
Nevertheless, 12-year-old Maria persists, so I offer her a book I’ve already cataloged. She reads the entire book aloud in Spanish. I offer her another. She does the same. I feel like I’m hand-feeding a famished man. Each time I pass Maria a book, she takes it with both hands. Her big, brown eyes pull me in like a tractor beam.
Inventory was not a task I wanted. I wanted to do something that would produce noticeable results. Perhaps like some of you, I tend to think charity must be something big and life-changing. We all like to think that our charitable actions result in a big jackpot of human change. But what if the rewards of change most often come just a nickel or two at a time?
Maybe it’s time we shift our difference-making efforts in another direction. Maybe we should be asking ourselves, “How might I make a little difference today that will matter to at least one person in the slightest way?”
Perhaps we need to challenge ourselves to give without needing to know what the difference will actually be. We must work to write our charitable stories without featuring ourselves as the hero.
I tire from my inventory task in the dimming light, but Maria doesn’t tire from reading.
“Por favor.” Please, she says, pointing to another book. “Una mas.” (One more.)
I began my day by asking myself if I could make a difference. I’m not sure I did, but I’m blessed to know that Maria seems to think I did.
But equally important perhaps, Maria made a difference in me.
Consider coming to Honduras with Chaplain Norris Burkes and inaugurate a library!
Write Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @chaplain or call 843-608-9715.
Check out all the reasons why we all think libraries are important, and that this non-profit, educate., is making the ultimate effort to get our newest library in Honduras sponsored all the way from Europe.
educate. is a small, Scottish-registered non-profit that works to support education in Honduras through scholarship programmes for excellent but underprivileged students and projects at schools and orphanages around the country. They believe that education lies at the root of sustainable development in Honduras. A key part of education is of course literacy, and with books so hard to come by in Honduras, many children are never provided with opportunities to read, which not only helps develop their literacy skills but can also spark a love of learning.
educate. came across Chispa Project via a tweet from the director’s father, suggesting educate. have a look at Chispa's work. Inspired and impressed not only by Chispa's mission but also by the community-driven development approach used to create the individual library programs, educate. contacted Chispa to see how they contribute and decided to sponsor a library.
One of educate.’s board members spent a year living in El Progreso, working at a nearby children’s home, and was drawn to the idea of starting a library in this area. All of the educate. board members deeply believe in the value of education and the impact that access to books can have. “I was a voracious reader growing up,” says Antonia McGrath, educate.’s Chair, “but only because I had access to books. Reading isn’t just about deciphering letters, it’s about imagination, it opens your mind to other worlds and possibilities. And for children in public schools in a country like Honduras, that is invaluable.
educate. is excited to be providing children with access to books in their own language, and teaching them, their teachers and their parents how to use the library effectively. They know this will give them the chance to learn and the opportunity to grow as students, thinkers and dreamers. Thanks, educate., for helping sponsor a library!
For more information on sponsoring a library, contact us here. To read more about educate.'s project and/or donate, read here!
We are constantly amazed at how people from around the world are connected with Honduras, and Diana Klein’s story is no different.
Diana lived in Honduras as participating with the Germany Society for International Cooperation in 2015. There, her discovery is the same as ours: books in Honduras are inaccessible to the general population. Books here are often expensive, hard to find, and of low quality.
Now back teaching in Germany at Leifheit Campus, she took advantage of her new connection to Honduras to pass her knowledge along to her students. In June 2017, Leifheit Campus carried out a charity day called “Movement for Honduras.” The students cooked and sold typical Honduran food, played children’s games, and sold handicrafts painted with Honduran and Germany motifs. The day taught participants a little of the diversity and beauty of Honduran culture while raising a sum of $4,000.
Diana then found and reached out to Chispa Project as she felt our mission matched what she envisioned in a book donation. Chispa Project works with organizations like Diana’s to help sponsor particular reading programs or benefit a chosen school. The money will go towards creating school library the José Cecilio del Valle School in Santa María, La Paz. Chispa Project will match the donation’s value in order to donate a total of 650 children’s books and provide the trainings and follow-up throughout 2018.
Chispa Project started working with Santa María and this past week met with the school’s newly formed library committee who will run and maintain the library program. Thanks, Diana and Leifheit Campus for reaching out, and to Santa María for being a community excited and ready to work for a new library!