Thursday, June 14, 2012

Costa Rica Library Project Starts 3rd Year

(A group of students from Amherst College, plus a student from Reed College, are in Costa Rica for the summer working on the Beyond el Campo project. Over the past two summers, the Reader to Reader project built a community library and ran literacy programs in the coffee-farming village of Santa Cruz. Here is their first report.)

We finally made it to Costa Rica! We arrived in Santa Cruz on Wednesday afternoon and met our host families. After settling in, we all met at the library and discussed ideas for what needs to be done this summer. On Thursday, we toured Santa Cruz in the morning, and in the afternoon we did some much-needed cleaning in the library. Friday, we went to the elementary school and met with the principal to discuss a potential partnership between the school and the library, and watched the children’s soccer match. After lunch, we finished cleaning the library, stabilized the bookshelves, and reorganized all of the books. This included familiarizing ourselves with the library’s catalog system, cataloging new books, updating the call numbers, and synchronizing the electronic database with the books on hand. We then met with Joanna, a Spanish teacher at the high school, and offered the library as a resource. Both the elementary and high school teachers were receptive and eager to collaborate with us.

On Saturday, Alex and Ned went to San Jose to buy new books, soccer ball shaped beanbags, educational posters, flash cards, and art supplies for the library. They also talked with people in three different bookstores to arrange bulk purchases of books that the elementary and high school teachers had asked us to stock for their students. Sergio’s father donated free soccer turf to use as a carpet for our soccer-themed reading area. Ali, Caitlin, Rose, and Emma stayed in Santa Cruz and made and distributed fliers to advertise our meet-and-greet that we hosted in the library on Sunday. The girls also bought ingredients to make cookies. We spent four hours and baked a hundred cookies.

On Sunday, we finished organizing the books and went to church, after which we had our meet and greet with free coffee and cookies that we made. It was a huge success; the library was packed, and we met many of the locals. Over fifty books were checked out that day as well. On Monday, we sanded the library’s ceiling and met with a group of high school students to present our thoughts about how the library could better serve the community. They gave us much positive feedback and also suggested some movies that we could show on our weekly movie nights. Today, we began to repaint the outside of the library, and primed and painted the ceiling all day. When we arrived, the ceiling was an unfinished, splotchy grey. Now, the ceiling is a bright sky blue and will include painted clouds and a sun.

For the upcoming week, we will be going to the elementary school to tutor a couple of children with learning disabilities, visit English classes and help out with some fun activities. We will visit the high school to host a cooking class, and continue to clean and paint the library.

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