iSchool Students Help Spread Literacy in Guatemala
Many people have heard of the successful international initiative, Doctors Without Borders ─ the model for other areas of need, such as Librarians Without Borders (LWB). Significantly, there is an iSchool connection to this wonderful program.
From April 22 to May 3 this year, 26 students from Librarians Without Borders chapters at the University of Toronto, Dalhousie, McGill and the University of Western Ontario participated in a trip to Guatemala to promote literacy and learning.
At the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy in Que¬tzal¬te¬nango (Xela), LWBers contributed books, helped organize the library and encouraged students to read, promoting learning and opening doors to higher education.
The University of Toronto LWB chapter was founded by students in 2009. It is an action-oriented non-profit organization with members from five universities in Canada. The Miguel Angel Asturias Academy project began in September 2009 with the intention of developing and operating a library at this school, a non-profit, non-governmental institution which provides free or partially funded education focused on making students critically aware of their social reality.
Through several fund-raising events, and support from the Master of Information Student Council, the iSchool chapter of LWB was able to purchase more than 150 books, mostly in Spanish, to donate to the Asturias Academy. All-together, participants brought 350 books to Guatemala.
After assessing the library’s needs, the work required was divided into five projects:
- Cataloguing and Library Organization
- Information Literacy
- a K'iche language audio book project (the Mayan language spoken in the Quetzaltenango region of Guatemala)
- User Needs Assessment and
- Knowledge Management
With limited resources, LWB participants left the library in a much improved state. “The effect of the other projects will only be understood in the future, but I believe they will be a great service to Asturias Academy,” says iSchool student Angie McHodgkins, who graduated this spring.
On a more personal note, Angie recognizes that “it's not necessarily easy to see the importance of library work on developing communities, but Guatemala taught me that our work here is only beginning, that we're still fighting the battle for literacy.”
“I was amazed at how much I learned over the last two years and how much I could immediately apply to this real-life situation. I feel more confident that I am prepared for this profession, and have a network of 25 other library professionals across Canada,” she adds.
During the trip, students also got the opportunity to see some of Guatemala. They visited a water park, saw the first church built in Central America, learned about the Mayan weaving process, hiked in the mountains, sat in a natural volcanic sauna, trekked through the jungle, and learned how to make tortillas.
“The outcomes towards which we worked will indeed be reward for our efforts. But equally rewarding was the very experience of living in Xela and working with the Asturias community, using our skills to play a part in the school’s mission, and broadening our perspectives,” expressed iSchooler, Samhita Gupta, on a blog post following the trip.
To read more about the LWB Guatemala trip, participants blogged out their experiences.
iSchool participants include:
(2011 graduates) Nalini Battu, Ahlya Fountain, Angie McHodgkins, Katie Needs, Nina Pena, Carla Wintersgill and (2012 candidates) Melissa Bell, Katie Cuyler, Samhita Gupta, Carmen Ho, and