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The butterfly effect in turning pages
Picture a young donkey on the beach, his pannier packed with colorful children's books. As he steps over the rubble and devastation left by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake, his bell calls out to the children left homeless to come and read, and, for a brief moment, forget the desperate situation around them. This was the beginning of what, two years later, is- Children's Library. And this attests to the fact that, yes, books can turn adversity into opportunity.
It all started when my husband and I left our tenured academic positions to live and read with the children of a small fishing village in northern Manabí, Ecuador. Little did we know that a month after this life-changing move, our home, along with every single house in this tiny village, was to be destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake that caused 650 deaths and left 650,000 people homeless in Ecuador on April 16, 2016. A few days after the shock we discovered that our pet donkey could carry books in his pannier and so, we set camp on the beach where all the children of the village would come running to pet him and look at the books.
When there was no electricity, running water, schools or medical services we “played Library” on the beach with colorful books, notebooks and crayons, sharing happy and constructive afternoons with the children of Don Juan.
Today this is a non-profit organization that offers educational programs in Don Juan, that tiny fishing village in northern Manabí, Ecuador. The Children's Library sits within a beautiful bamboo building in the center of the village. It offers remedial reading programs, homework assistance, teacher training, arts and crafts workshops, adult education, and taekwondo and self-defense training for girls and women. Our main focus is on young girls. We believe that girls age 10-12 are the motor of a needed change in local gender dynamics that will unsettle the patriarchal domination that burdens women and children in this community.
Life in Don Juan is simple, very affordable and wholesome. Our operating costs are extremely low, and our employees (including ourselves) receive the minimum wage in Ecuador, which is sufficient. Along with one of our neighbors who is working hard to finish high school, my husband and I run the Intercultural Center and the Children´s Library. International and national volunteers support us in areas such as science, technology or sports. A nominal volunteer fee helps us cover operating costs like electricity, water, and connectivity.
Now that our pet donkey is pasturing on a nearby farm, we are looking fundraising for a Library bus that will take us to remote villages and replicate the programs that have proved successful in Don Juan. We want to share the generous donations received and basic know-how for Library services. This is the foundation of a future circuit of Children´s Libraries along the Pacific coast of Ecuador.
We continue to expand our circle of influence. We have finished cataloging our books, the lending service enhances our effectiveness. Some of the measurable results we expect to obtain are: active leadership, especially among women; increased school graduations; and reduced gender-based violence.
In the teacher training and remedial reading programs, we are working with the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar del Ecuador. Their approach has been tested in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. They are phonological, rather than syllabical method shows rapid advances in writing-reading workshops with children from different age groups.
Literacy is a complex asset that speaks of a lettered context. Unfortunately, in developing countries, this usually means urban middle-class surroundings. In addition to children and teenagers, some of our Library patrons finished grade school a long time ago and have had very few opportunities or need to use their literacy skills. Many have lost the ability to read or understand what they read. This underlines the necessity of a Library system, something that is quite alien to the national government’s plans for education in rural locations. The core value of this venture is the grounding of a lettered environment in a community historically neglected by educational services.
The butterfly effect contends that given certain conditions, the distant flapping of a butterfly's wings can alter the course of a tornado. Likewise, the continued page turning in this small Children´s Library is broadening life opportunities in this tiny village. Thus turning adversity into possibilities and loneliness into community.
Hello, my name is Rut Román, along with my husband Esteban Ponce and some friends we started a NGO.
We are living and working in Don Juan, a fishing village hit by the 7.8 earthquakes that destroyed the coastal areas in Ecuador in 2016. We run the Children's library where we offer a reading remedial program, homework assistance, and English classes. We are also involved in a continued education program for adults and several cultural events for our community. We believe that educational and cultural programs are instrumental in order to help people lead better lives. During Library hours your main responsibility is to encourage everybody who walks in to read, you should read out loud for them -in English or Spanish-, or read along, or suggest a good read. In order to perform your tasks as a volunteer librarian, your Spanish should be fluent or next to fluent; you should be able to communicate, read and write in Spanish in order to help our patrons and assist with homework. Our intercultural program will allow a couple of volunteers to live and work in a friendly community. Come share your skills and learn how to use a machete, clean fish, go fishing and cook local cuisine. Let me tell you our story:
Help with Eco project
Help with Computers / internet
We are a couple of Literature Professors that can help you with your Spanish skills and get your started on a Latin American Literary journey. In our Foundation, volunteers are required to take one of our local workshops on artisan fishing, local cuisine, machete, fish cleaning. You will learn about family dynamics and Ecuadorian culture.
We are looking for a couple of bilingual (Spanish- English) teachers or artist volunteers who are interested in arts, education sports, and culture. We strongly prefer couples since you embody a different gender dynamics that will help unsettle the patriarchal impositions that are pervasive in this region. If you are a couple, and cannot make the $5 daily
fee, please contact us and we can try to make it work. While we do rely on volunteers fees to support your meals, we will make an effort and see if we can make something work out.
Teaching experience is welcome and Spanish proficiency. You will be required to open and run our local Children's Library in a small fishing village in the coast of Manabí, Ecuador. You need to have a medium knowledge of Spanish to help with homework and would like to teach ESL, Art, recycled crafts, coach sports or help with homework and come up with creative and fun possibilities for the spare time of our young neighbors, this is your place. You will also be asked to help out in the local grade school teaching English and playing games in English with the kids. There is plenty of things to be done if you have an open disposition and are willing to share your talents. Since you will be part of an educational program, we suggest to stay with us at least 6 weeks, and we prefer volunteers able to stay for longer periods.
Spanish, English, some French
You will be staying in the volunteer residence at the Intercultural Center in Don Juan. It is a beautiful bamboo house recently build. The house is all for you, on occasions we may host another volunteer in the second bedroom. The kitchen is fully equipped, we will provide organic goods -fruit, vegetables, (fish, shrimp are also available)- so you can prepare your own meals. The kitchen is fully equipped and the bathroom and bedroom are very comfortable. We are sure you will be very happy here.
Our village is in the equatorial line surrounded by beautiful beaches, primary forests and archaeological sites. You may borrow our bikes to go to Jama (south) or Pedernales (north). The Intercultural Center is located in the Center of the Village just a block away from the beach. This calm and beautiful place encourages your to relax, read, meditate or swim, bike and take long walks. This is a great opportunity to learn something about yourself, while helping others.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
More than two
Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week
In developing countries (Where most hosts are involved in charity work or community development) some of our hosts may ask for a small donation to help the host family or charity (often less then 5 dollars per day) Workaway will allow this listing when the donation goes directly to the family or charity and is just to cover the cost of the volunteer‘s stay. (This will be clearly marked on the host listing).
We will strictly not allow listings posted by agents, “middle men” or projects who we feel are looking to profit from a volunteers stay.
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