As the co-host on this year’s Learning Journey, I cherished the opportunity I had to intimately connect ten of our supporters to the work in which they had invested. While I do my best to connect people to Reading Village’s work throughout the year, the Learning Journey creates the perfect vehicle to directly connect the people who make our work possible with the beneficiaries of that work. Every day spent in the community is filled with activities planned and led by the youth leaders. These activities help to reveal the culture of their village as well as the creativity and devotion of the youth leaders in their roles as reading promoters and future community leaders.
Telma was one of our enthusiastic hosts this year. She comes from a large family in Chuiquel in which her three older siblings left school before they reached her current level. She is grateful to Reading Village for encouraging her to stay in school with the support, training and sponsorship we provide through the Leaders and Readers Program. Telma, a third-year participant, wants to study business administration upon graduation and hopes that her experience with Reading Village will motivate her four younger siblings to follow in her footsteps and graduate high school, too.
During one of our group discussions in April, she shared an incredible story illustrating the impact the youth are having in their communities. She told us about the teacher’s son who joined her reading session one day in March. Zoila is the preschool teacher of one of the classes Telma reads to each week. Cristhian, Zoila’s 5-year-old son, joined her at school one day because he didn’t have school that day. When Telma came to read to the children at the end of their school day, Cristhian asked his mom if he could stay with the other children for this special reading time. Afterwards, he told his mom that he thought it was so great that her students have the opportunity to receive literacy activities from Telma and how he wished he could be a student at her school so that he could be a part of the Leaders and Readers Program, too. Zoila later shared her son’s reaction with Telma and told her how Cristhian really enjoyed her reading session because she made it fun and engaging in contrast to the rote memorization so often present in Guatemalan classrooms. Storytime with Telma wasn’t boring! The teacher also acknowledged how the youth leaders’ work with the children really helps them to develop their reading skills and to build their vocabulary. For Telma, who always dreamed of being a teacher, hearing this feedback made her feel such pride that her dream had become a reality through her work as a youth leader with Reading Village.
Hearing Telma’s story was powerful for everyone in the circle. As our Learning Journey participants listened they could experience first hand the tangible impact that our program has on the lives of these young adults and all those around them. And, listening as Telma shared a dream come true, it became clear that it was not just her dream, it was our dream – the dream for a better future for Guatemala – and that each of the people in that circle, traveler and youth alike, was helping to make that dream a reality.