Report to Lake Atitlan Libraries Board of Directors, April 26, 2008

Louise Eidsmoe, Secretary LAL
 
I spent the month of February, 2008, in Panajachel, Guatemala. During the time there I spent some of my days working for the Lake Atitlan Libraries. My work involved meeting with the local organization that makes decisions about how to disburse the LAL funds, visiting libraries that have received our funds in the past and meeting with past funders. 
 
Asociacion Pro Biblioteca (APB)
 
Subscribe to the LAL newsletterThe local Guatemalan organization, APB, represented by Richard Adams, is always responsive to my interest in learning as much as I can during my time in Panajachel. Richard spent most of one day driving me to a remote school library up in the cloud forest. In the process of driving I learned how the committee ensures that they are meeting the most pressing current needs. On four other days we had shorter meetings related to the work of APB. On one visit I treated Richard and his wife Betty to a delicious lunch to thank them for all of their work on behalf of students and libraries in Guatemala. You may be interested in the history of Betty�s coffee growing family as it interacted in the history of Guatemala as described in a very good book called Silence on the Mountain by Daniel Wilkinson. 
 
Library visits
 
The library visits are the most interesting parts of the work for LAL. I was in the Panajachel Library at least 3 times. My Spanish has improved a little so I was able to talk to staff and see improvements made in the preschool area. I also took people from the US to see the work that has been done and hopefully gain new donors. I visited again the library in San Juan La Laguana, met again the director Israel, and observed the new plaza construction that connects the Library to the municipal center and a school. This year I also visited the municipal library in Santiago Atitlan. They have the Basico textbooks and students were using them while I was there. 
 
But the highlight was the trip to the Basico School in the village of Maria del Carmen. The Basico School is new and they use the primary school classrooms while they raise funds to build their own. This village is Mayan Quiche while most of the Solola region is Kaqchiquel. The primary school has 300 students in grades 1-6 while the Basico has only 32 students in grades 7-9. Of those 32 only 8 are girls. Parents were represented at the meeting. Since education is not free at this level, parents need to pay about $5/month for tuition. The six teachers get paid very little. I met two, Elise and Antonio, who were raised in the village and lived away from home to complete their Basico and normal school education to become teachers. In the ceremony that thanks us and you the donors, students told how in the past they need to travel an hour by bus to study in libraries around the region. Now they have not only the textbooks, but also an Encyclopedia that Richard was able to obtain at a much reduced price. Having these first textbooks means that the education they receive will be intensified and more successful. Hopefully, it will also attract more students to the school so that this Mayan group will have more future leaders with a better education.
 
Meetings with Miracles in Action and Derossi Foundation
 
Another important part of this trip was the meetings with two of our major funders from 2007. When I first arrived, Richard invited me to the reception that he had planned for the Board members of the Daniele Agostino Derossi Foundation who have given us 2 $10,000 grants in the past. The three Board members were traveling around Guatemala to visit projects that had been funded. At the reception they told us that they are focusing on Guatemala because of the high needs and the ability of small amounts of funds to make a big difference in very poor communities. The reception gave Richard a chance to explain the current emphasis of APB on supplying textbooks to Basico schools without any books. It also gave me a chance to explain the role of Lake Atitlan Libraries as the legal US entity for fundraising, but also the involved partner of the local APB group. One of the results of this meeting was that LAL will be able to apply for another grant in May of this year. 
 
Later I met with Jan Jantzen who is a Board member of Miracles in Action. They provided APB directly with a grant in 2007. The story of Miracles is filled with dedicated individuals who have grown to love Guatemala and want to be part of its development. Jan told me how they raised over $35,000 last year by selling jewelry and crafts made in Guatemala. She and her husband live in Guatemala for 3 months in the winter each year. They inspired me to think about how we could expand our donor base and fund raising. 
 
Next steps:
 
Richard is great at keeping track of the statistics online on public Basico Schools in the Solol� District. He has also tracked what other organizations are doing to address similar problems and is assured that at this time no other organizations are providing textbooks for the Basicos in this area. Richard estimates that there are 36 rural Basicos serving mostly Mayan villages left that have no access to textbooks. They include a total of 3,000 students. It will take at least three more rounds of funding of at least $10,000 per round to meet all of this need. He would like to wait until after we get the results of another Derossi Foundation grant application in August before starting a new round of finding which schools to fund, finding which books they want, buying and distributing the books. 
 
Richard and I also talked about a problem that we witnessed in Maria del Carmen. The teachers in the villages need some training on how to use the textbooks more effectively. Norma Guzman, the previous librarian at the Panajachel Library, now works for an organization called Child Aide. As part of her work, she is able to offer this type of training. She and Richard will be consulting on how to set up training to coincide with the next round of funding. 
 
I propose that Board of LAL vote to apply for another grant from the Derossi Foundation. In addition, that we hold off distribution of funds to APB until August when we anticipate a response from our request.
 
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