Fourteen years ago, in one of the northern Maya villages in the Yucatan, a visiting Stanford professor named Cynthia Wilber started bringing books with her to share with the village children. When she came back and saw how treasured the books were, and that the entire village had memorized every word in them, she decided to invest more time in her book-lending project.
In 1995, that small project became Proyecto Itzaes, or “Project of the People,” a free, family-centered educational program dedicated to helping the villagers (primarily of Maya descent) develop new skills, promote literacy, and in a true community effort, make every learner a teacher. In the Yucatan, Maya people used to subsist on traditional farming and seasonal fishing, but those are no longer enough to support a family. The mission of Proyecto Itzaes is to help village children acquire an education, respect their Maya cultural heritage, and use education to fully realize their gifts in a changing world. And books have everything to do with that endeavor.
Leamos Juntos Yucatán, the literacy program of Proyecto Itzaes, currently provides beautiful, high quality children’s books and family literacy programs to six villages in Yucatán, Mexico while addressing the extreme poverty of the Maya village children. These children often enter kindergarten without ever having held a book or developed basic pre-reading skills. So PI provides take-home book bags to the most critical population in Yucatán: low income families in villages where parents are poor readers or do not have reading confidence. In the past 14 years, thanks to Proyecto Itzaes, the children of these villages are continuing on not just to high school, but to university – supported by scholarship programs funded by International and local Rotary, Palo Alto foundations and Menlo High School, among others. PI also funds community programs like Science in the Village, undertakes reforestation and organic community garden projects, sponsors Clean up the Beach days, and produces entertaining rap videos starring everyone in the village to educate people about the alarming increase in Type II diabetes.
From afterschool programs to classes in computer literacy, environmental issues and community health, Proyecto Itzaes is working to empower the villagers of the Yucatan through literacy and education. And right now, PI is facing a cool challenge grant: if it can raise $1,500 before December 2 for new books for the village libraries, one of its donors will double that amount.
When 300 people turn out for a book exchange in one small village, I want the books to be there. My $100 today goes to Proyectos Itzaes and the Bring Me a Book Foundation … Read on!
To join me, click here.
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Anyone who thinks real books are going to disappear should read this post. That very last photo says it all.
Isn’t it ironic that as we seem to be dissing books at a mad clip, people all around the world would seemingly give anything to have the books we disdain? Maybe every purchase of a kindle or i-book should include a book for the developing world!