Books for Communities in Need
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History

In June 1999, we had the opportunity to go with an UMVIM group from the St. John’s United Methodist Church of Lugoff, South Carolina to Honduras to assist in the relief effort of the victims of Hurricane “Mitch”.   During our assignment we served in the communities of El Estribo and Las Lajas. 

As we considered their state of being and condition in life, our hearts were filled with compassion towards them. We desired to perform a service or contribute something that would have a longer lasting and permanent affect on their lives and well being. When we returned to the United States, we considered food, money, clothes and other material relief. However, all of that seemed to be insufficient and not what they truly needed. 

Upon reflecting further, we determined that the majority of the people in the communities had very little or no education. We noticed that there were virtually no books in the homes of the local villagers or at the community school. 

We feel that if we could make books available in the homes of the citizens, they could begin to read and become more aware of what is available for them. Through this, they could become more self-reliant. 

Goal

The goal of “Reading is Power” is to provide small libraries to the one-room schoolhouses in the isolated communities served by CCD. The libraries contain educational books for the children from preschool through elementary and above. The number of books in the library is determined by the size of the community. The library is self-contained, including a cabinet, books and a simple cataloguing system, and serves as a resource to the community.

Simple Approach

We felt with the inherent complexities of an international project, only a simple implementation strategy will be successful.  The community of Las Lajas is being used as pilot project for the proposed strategy. The initial library will serve an estimated 200 families in the Choluteca region of Honduras, including the communities of Las Lajas, El Estribo, 12 de Febrero, and Santa Catarina. A formal evaluation of the Las Lajas pilot project will be performed and adjustments to the strategy made prior to any expansion of the program to other CCD communities.

 Based on the success of the Las Lajas pilot project, CCD will identify other communities to be targeted for the libraries. 

The Libraries

The libraries consist of the books, a bookcase, and a simple cataloguing system. The libraries are staged in the United States and then shipped to Honduras.

Books targeted for inclusion in the libraries are chosen using resources such as “Guide to Foreign Language Children’s Books” at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and “Center for the Study of Books in Spanish for Children and Adolescents” at California State University San Marcos. We placed a priority on getting books about Honduras, including children’s tales, history, and political analysis.

 Sources for the books include book publishers (e.g. Scholastic) and book distributors such as Ingram International. 

The wooden shipping containers used to transport the books are designed such that they can be easily reconfigured into bookcases to house the books once they reach the community. The bookcase is built by reconfiguring the wooden shipping containers used to protect the books during shipment. The containers are designed such that no tools or special skills are needed to reconfigure them into the bookcases. 

A simple cataloguing system is provided with the library. This allows the books to be checked out and tracked. This helps to teach the responsibilities associated with a shared community resource. Books are color-coded by age level. A specific member of the community has been identified to oversee the operation of the library.

Each book contains a card pocket with a checkout card. When a book is checked out, the checkout card is removed, signed by the person checking out the book, stamped with the due date and stored in the charging tray. The empty card pocket will also be stamped with the due date, letting the borrower know when it is due.

Support Provided by CCD

 CCD has committed their support to the project in three ways.  First, they will provide the transportation logistics support needed to get the libraries from their point of entry into Honduras to the destination community. Second, they will identify the communities that will be served by the program and identify an individual within the community to oversee the operation of the library.  Finally, CCD will provide administrative support to assist in the ongoing evaluation of the program.

Support Provided by Shandon United Methodist Church (SUMC)

“Reading is Power” is a sanctioned subcommittee within the SUMC Commission on Outreach. SUMC has committed their support to the project in two ways. First, as a nonprofit organization, SUMC will provide the financial administration of the project. This will allow groups and individuals to make tax-deductible contributions to the project. Second, SUMC will provide a pool of volunteers to perform the physical processing of the books, including putting in card pockets, applying title/author labels and color coded labels signifying the books’ age level. They will also build the shipping containers/bookcases and charging tray. 

Support Provided by the Adaptec Foundation

 The Adaptec Foundation has committed $7000 to be used for the non-administrative expenses of the pilot project. This includes books, library supplies, and library transportation costs. In addition Adaptec will make available their international shipping and import/export expertise helping to expedite the delivery of the initial library from Columbia, SC to Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Current Project Status 

The initial library was shipped from Columbia, SC on July 6, 2000. It was delivered to the community of Las Lajas on July 27, 2000. The library contains 1000 children’s books at 5 different reading levels. The library will serve an estimated 200 families in the Choluteca region of Honduras, including the communities of Las Lajas, El Estribo, 12 de Febrero, and Santa Catarina.



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