Saturday, 24 June 2017

Rafa likes to read

Rafa is a child who lives in Celendín, is only six years old and is learning to read and write in school, but his learning is not limited to what his teacher teaches: Rafa likes, above all, to read on his own and from the voice of his godmother.

Doña Consuelo, who is the librarian in Rosario Bajo, reads with pleasure the favourite stories of Rafa and, while she reads, he jumps ahead from time to time because he knows by heart what follows in every line of his favourite story: The fox and the candle.

And it's not just about what makes him laugh, but also about what makes him think: "Get out, fox!" he said, "That happened to you because you were arrogant!" And he burst out laughing.

If all the children read like him and if all the godmothers read to their godchildren, as does Doña Consuelo to Rafa and all the children who visit her library, our history would be different.

Rebirth in Bambamarca

The district of Bambamarca, province of Hualgayoc, was our next stop: in this zone, 46 years ago, we started our Rural Libraries movement.

At the invitation of teacher Manuela Vásquez, sister of our dear friend Rosa Vásquez - who has long been a member of our Enciclopedia Campesina Project, we arrived at the Educational Institution of the Pedagogical Higher Institute of Bambamarca. There we had a fruitful meeting with the director and his teaching team. They were all very eager to start the process to open their rural library, to engage in the rescue of our ancestral wisdom and to engage in training with their children in the encouragement of reading.

Sometimes it seems that one can never know the full extent of the effects of our efforts, however an echo may reach our ears. And so it went when three out of the seven teachers present spoke of how they remembered with joy their childhood experience of reading to their parents, who could not read, the books they borrowed from the rural library in their community.

Teacher Benigno Edquén Díaz recalls that his father was a rural librarian, and thus all his family read the books to be able to recommend them to the readers. He asserts that having the rural library in his home helped him loose the fear of reading, helped him feel a brotherhood with books, and appreciate his own campesino culture. He not only learned a lot from the books: he grew a lot with them.

And so we were back again, hoping that our efforts and books inspire more young minds, while we keep on keeping on. 

Tugusa begins

About an hour and a half from the city of Chota lies a rural community named Tugusa, in the district of Chiguirip. And it is there that we directed our steps, on a road constructed above an immense divortium aquarum (divorce between water basins).

Thanks to the interest and enthusiasm of teacher Ricardo Delgado, we had the opportunity to meet and converse with firstly the students and teachers of their secondary school, then with the parents and community members of Tugusa.

Our brother Alfredo Mires spoke to the community about culture and education, or rather, the lack of the former in the latter. The importance of knowing our own culture, and being unabashedly proud of it, in order to have a solid base from which to welcome the world, was a message that was received with spirit and decision by the learners young and old.

The reunion with the parents of the community began with Alfredo covering the basics of forming and sustaining a rural library, and it ended with the community electing their librarian: doña Eluvina Díaz Guevara, whose acceptance was met with a hearty applause.

As we were exchanging details with doña Eluvina there was already a line of eager borrowers hoping to jumpstart the library functioning.

Tugusa now is part of a grand community that continues advancing. 

Friday, 23 June 2017

Reading in Celendin

The rejuvenation of our libraries in the province of Celendin continues. Last year we opened several new libraries - from outer-city barrios to high altitude rural communities (of the jalca), and at the beginning of June we visited three of them.

In the community of Bella Vista we called in on Karin Muños who operates her library under the famous sombrero of Celendin, where the neighbourhood children bask in our stories and learn from our ancestors who speak from the depths of the pages.

Karin is a special needs teacher so we discussed our Community Program and how we could share material that could benefit the children and their families.

Early the following morning we visited the barrio of Rosario Bajo where Consuelo Livaque, rural librarian, gathered the children of her neighbourhood to carry out an enchanting reading circle. Each child chose from the selection of new books that we brought and very quickly got lost in their colourful pages.

We concentrated our energy once again to read and listen together. The children bid goodbye contentedly knowing that every Saturday the space would be open for the young earnest readers to gather.

Celendin also provided us the opportunity to meet with teacher Nancy Castañeda, the enthusiastic coordinator who continues to animate colleagues to integrate into the rural libraries family. Nancy is still recovering from an accident that injured her arm: from here we send Nancy a fraternal hug and our best wishes for a speedy recovery!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Earth recounts in Colombia

Towards the end of last year, our brother and Executive Advisor to the Network, Alfredo Mires Ortiz, was invited to the Colombian city of Medellín to give a keynote address in the launching of the Citizen Plan for reading, writing and speaking.

We now have the pleasure of sharing this conference titled: "The Earth recounts: Orality, reading and writing in community territory". (original title: "La Tierra cuenta: Oralidad, lectura y escritura en territorio comunitario".)

Alfredo covered diverse topics that were grouped under the following headings: The sensation and the word; The bloody disagreement; Writing or the clotting of voices; Reading: perceptions and descriptions; Oralities, territories and searches; And Going.

You can see the video of the conference - edited by the Didactic Group and New Technologies (el Grupo Didáctica y Nuevas Tecnologías) - here: or directly below.

The video includes the conversation that took place after the conference.

Here are some illuminating quotes from Alfredo:

"We are also losing the ability to read ourselves. Fortunately ants do not go to school: in order to learn one needs to always observe and wonder. The earth does not hold back teachings. There is no other way than this coming together, generous and fertile, of all with all, among all, for all. In this country, those who remember the most are the most forgotten."

"... Perhaps the problem is not that the objectification of the world is at the foundation of hegemonic discourses, but rather the level of assimilation that people and communities have of this concept and its consequent predatory practices."

"It happens that knowing how to read and write does not make us readers and writers. In this sense, the school teaches literacy but not culture."

"The truth of our semblance has been twisted for a long time. And perhaps we are suffering the nightmares of those who no longer have dreams. We do not have to aspire to gloomy prosperities when the fortune of this continent is on its soil and its people. We do not have to aspire to stagnant decadences if we have inherited the fortune of our own way, with our authentic joy, in our legitimate terrain."

Cultural rescue in La Libertad

While opening the 10 new Rural Libraries in Huamachuco, Department of La Libertad, our brother Alfredo was asked to give two more workshops: firstly with the team and the volunteers of Proyecto Amigo, then for students of the Higher Pedagogical Institute (Instituto Superior Pedagógico).

With the team and volunteers conceptions and practices were approached to ensure the rescue of the oral tradition transmitted through the generations. As the focal theme, Alfredo addressed the issues of colonization and education, dignity and identity. After underlining the scope and depth of the problem of continued colonization, the importance of rescuing and strengthening the dignity in our ancestral identity was emphasised. In this way the fundamentals of the rescue and cultural affirmation were presented.

Then the future teachers were enriched with innovative and intuitive ideas about the art of encouraging reading. The essence and cultivation of the love for reading and the flare for writing, as well as the ability and courage to think independently and critically, were some of the key points that Alfredo imparted and that we hope that the teachers-in-training will incorporate in their learning practice with the children.

At the end of the day we rose to greet the sacred Apu Marcahuamachuco and the mountains that surround him. And we were blessed with a rainbow. 

Monday, 19 June 2017

Towards La Libertad!

For several years we have cultivated a gratifying closeness with the organisation Proyecto Amigo of Huamachuco (Huamachuco district, capital of the Sánchez Carrión Province, Department of La Libertad, northern highlands of Peru).

This organization is dedicated to alternative education initiatives involving children and families in vulnerable situations, now counting many years serving the population of Huamachuco.

After much coordination full of encouragement and sharing of dreams, on receiving the applications to open 10 libraries in the neighborhoods of the semi-urban area, around the city of Huamachuco, we crossed the departmental border to La Libertad to inaugurate this initiative. The strength of the feminine was present when we met with the newly elected librarians: they are all women, mothers of families from the countryside and determined to make their way through all the challenges.

Our brother Alfredo Mires Ortiz was encouraging these steps, sharing the network's commitment to new members of the community, as well as the conception, operation of libraries and techniques to encourage reading in groups. Alfredo insisted on how a living library can rejuvenate and strengthen a community.

Accompanied also by Rocío Altamirano and the coordinating team, the new librarians assumed their responsibility in this humble forge for a fairer and better tomorrow.