Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Book Bus Project Gets Put in Motion

After a couple of weeks of hiatus, the Book Bus project hit the ground running this week, putting the first part of our plan in motion. The El Progreso library is going to serve as our first community “Reading Corner” site, and this week we were able to start work on the library. But first, we had to get organized and find a little help from other community members. Part of starting up a new project includes spreading word about the project, and creating the necessary promotional materials to share ideas and gain support. This week we were able to receive some support through GAIAS, the Galapagos Institute for the Arts and Sciences, who assisted us in gathering cleaning supplies.

Hacienda volunteers working hard
Once funds were obtained and cleaning supplies were purchased, it was only a matter of finding enough volunteers to tackle the library in the one day that we had set aside for cleaning. Again, we were lucky to find support in the GAIAS community, as a number of students and English teachers volunteered their Wednesday to the project. Combined with the fantastic volunteers at Hacienda Tranquila, who agreed to help us out for the day, we were a force of over 20 volunteers who, partnered with the library staff, spent the day working to clean up the library. It was a good thing we had so many people, because we still barely accomplished what we were hoping to, even with all that hard work.

At the start of the day, we split into two groups, those working inside, and those working outside. The outside group had the task of weeding the entrance to the library and making the path to the library from the street more noticeable and user friendly. Weeding was no easy task, as there were pesky nettles hiding among the weeds and biting bugs lying in wait, but the front of the library looks like new, and certainly much more inviting. As the day progressed, and weeding moved to the sides of the building, volunteers also started cleaning the outside of the building, trying to prepare it for a fresh, new coat of paint. Using brooms and brushes, our volunteers covered the perimeter of the library, brushing and scrubbing, removing old paint and mold from the walls.

Look at all those weeds!

Sorting books
The work inside of the library concentrated on reorganization. The books in the library were in no particular order, and in order to inventory the books and make the library more user friendly, reorganization was imperative. With ten people inside the library, we took all the books off the shelves and started to categorize them into different subjects and materials. We were impressed and surprised at the treasures we found in the library. Volumes of classic literature, books on organic chemistry, a whole wall of encyclopedias, books outlining Ecuadorian policies and laws, books on art museums in Madrid, how to do jujitsu, and just about everything you could find in between. We also put together all the children’s books, and discovered that there were enough to constitute a whole side room dedicated solely to young readers. It was like going on a treasure hunt. Once all the books were off the shelves, we gave the shelves a thorough scrubbing, the books a nice dusting, and then placed all the books back in their new categories. The categories were later labeled, so that when patrons come to the library, they’ll be able to search for any topics that may interest them. The new organization system will also make including new books much easier. The books took all day, and then a little extra, but it was a huge first step towards making the El Progreso library more user friendly for the local population.

All this hard work from the volunteers did not go without thanks, as we had a fantastic lunch of wood-fired pizzas at Hacienda Tranquila, when we were all at our breaking point from dust and nettles. Thank you so much to all of our volunteers, both from GAIAS and from Hacienda Tranquila (including those who stayed at the Hacienda to help prepare and cleanup after our amazing lunch!), and a huge thank you to GAIAS for funding our efforts. None of this work would have been accomplished without everyone’s collaboration. The work continues this upcoming week, as (drumroll….) it’s painting time! Tune in next weekend to see the next step in our revitalization project, some shiny new walls for the El Progreso library! 
The finished fiction section
The new path

The finished children's room

Friday, November 15, 2013

An afternoon with Edy: The community "Reading Corners" get started

The community center in La Soledad

Things are really starting to take shape for the Book Bus project! This week we went into two of the four communities where we are going to start “Reading Corners,” the community center in La Soledad and the library in El Progreso. During the visits we took pictures of the spaces, got an idea of how we can help fix them up, and talked about what types of activities we are going to do in the spaces once they are all put together. We have big ideas for these “Reading Corners,” we aren’t just going to supply books through the Book Bus in the UK. First we’re going to give the community center and the library a “makeover,” which will include a good scrub down, a fresh coat of paint, and any extra projects needed to make these locations an inviting space for the community. We want these areas to be sources of pride in the communities, where people want to come with their families to learn and read. The plan for now is to do our first “makeover” in two weeks with volunteers from Hacienda Tranquila, and the international students studying at GAIAS (the Galapagos Institute for the Arts and Sciences). 

Let me take you on a little walking tour of the library in El Progreso, so you can see exactly what our plan is to transform this library from a place that has only 10 people visit a day to a place for the whole community. 

First things first, we want to take this sign and liven it up a bit (you know, make it so people actually know there’s a library somewhere back there). We also plan to do a bit of weeding, and make the path leading to the library more welcoming.
The sign out front the library

The work continues on the outside of the library, which could use a good scrub down to remove the lichen that has found a new home on the outside walls, and a fresh paint job to make the building look like new again.
The library

Once inside of the library, I was lucky enough to spend the afternoon with this guy, Edy, the librarian in El Progreso. He shared with me that he, on his own, found the computers for the library (they currently have four, but only three are working), and made sure that the little library of El Progreso was the first library in the Galapagos with an internet connection. He is just as excited as we are about the project, and we cannot wait to work with him more. 
Edy, the librarian, hard at work

The cleaning and painting continues on the inside of the building, as the walls, floors, and shelves could all use some touching up. If you saw the “Reading Corner” example pictures from earlier this week (check it out if you haven’t!), you know that we’ll be painting the walls, not just with new colors, but with figures and drawings as well. The idea is to make the space clean, fun, and exciting for the kids.

The library, inside

The library has about eight to ten students that come on a daily basis to use the computers to do their homework. The internet is free, and students can print things and make copies for free as well. We are hoping to find a partner that can help us do routine maintenance on the computers. 
Students hard at work on the computers

 The library is well stocked in books, but unfortunately many of them are out-of-date text books and encyclopedias that should be replaced with current copies. They could also use more children’s books, as there seemed to be a shortage of them. The volunteer troop is also going to do a massive reorganization of the book shelves, organizing the books in a user-friendly manner.
The books!

Finally, the library has two great side rooms that have been used in the past for such interesting projects as a community pet-neutering day (!). But we will plan on using them for community courses, once we get them cleaned up a bit, on subjects ranging from computer and internet use, to agriculture projects, to art classes for the children in the neighborhood.
One of the two side rooms in the library
With so many great projects planned for the library in El Progreso and similar projects for all of our community “Reading Centers,” how could I not be this excited! Thanks for reading, and check in next week for further updates!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Nuts and Bolts of the Project

An example "Reading Corner" from mainland Ecuador
After a wonderful week of vacation for this volunteer, it was time to get back to work on the BookBus project. This week was busy at the Hacienda with other activities, so the BookBus project was not as action packed as weeks past, but it still involved some important budget making. The focus for this week and the upcoming week will be on the community “Reading Corners” that we are going to create (check out these incredible examples from the BookBus project already established in mainland Ecuador). The big goal for this week was to establish a budget for the materials we will need to put together these beautiful spaces of reading and learning. What does it take to put together a “Reading Corner” you might ask? Well we’re taking into account such important details as 5 pounds of nails, 15 gallons of paint, 50 screws, 10 paint rollers, and a package of garbage bags. We’ve compiled a budget with these important items, plus others, to send off to the offices in the UK and Quito to continue the planning process.

An example "Reading Corner" from mainland Ecuador
All of these tools will be used to establish “Reading Corners” in four different rural communities on San Cristobal: La Soledad, El Progreso, Cerro Verde, and Socabon. As Hacienda Tranquila is located in La Soledad, we were already able to gather the necessary information about this community. La Soledad has about 15 families, with 35 adults and 16 children; we are going to establish a “Reading Corner” in the community center there that will supply books, but will also give courses on topics such as computer and internet use, and agriculture. We are so excited about the possibilities we see in La Soledad, and cannot wait to explore the other three communities that we are going to work with on San Cristobal. Next week will be a busy one, visiting these three other communities to collect more information to send off to the UK and Quito; it will be another big step in our efforts to spread the love of learning in San Cristobal. Check in on Friday to hear all about it!