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Stocking libraries in Guatemala

The Ridge Meadows Retired Teachers’ Association brings books to Guatemalan students, who typically own just one school book. - Contributed
The Ridge Meadows Retired Teachers’ Association brings books to Guatemalan students, who typically own just one school book.
— image credit: Contributed

Bringing books to poor children in Guatemala is a passion for Kenneth Holmes of the Ridge Meadows Retired Teachers’ Association.

The one-time school librarian visited South America for the first time in 2010, and found the amount of reading material available to children was severely wanting.

He was with a group of about 20 volunteers on the trip. They were part of the local group Love Guatemala. For him, one of the highlights of the trip was delivering a library to a school in Chimixiya. He’s since been back twice, bringing his grandchildren to experience the country and culture, and stocked up two more village libraries. He’s working on more.

Most Guatemalan students own one school book, which contains the entire syllabus for all courses they will study between its covers. Libraries are rare, are not well stocked, and people are not allowed to remove the books – they read them at the library.

So, when 20 people from Maple Ridge head south for a Love Guatemala project, they make sure they are using their 50 pounds of allowable luggage space by packing new books.

“The Ridge-Meadows Retired Teachers’ Association has become the little local association that could,” he said.

In 2010, the members at the “To Hell with the Bell Breakfast” donated change to buy library books for the students at Chimixiya. The group’s executive suggested that they continue to have a change bucket at its luncheons, apply for a RR SMITH Foundation grant, and gave a $1-per-member grant towards the “Change for change” project.

The accumulation of change does a lot.

Holmes was able to buy more than 400 books, fiction and non-fiction, on eBay.

These books will be added to the ones purchased with the $1,500 grant from the RR SMITH Foundation and the $1 per member grant from the RMRTA.

With these funds, in 2011 they helped to supply a library for Quiacquix, then in 2012, another library in El Ricon.

This year, Love Guatemala will be delivering books to a mobile library operating out of Alta Varapz thanks to the support of RMRTA members and the RR SMITH Foundation.

It will service five Mayan communities:  Pantup, Pamuc, Santa Rosa, Chacalte, and Mexabaj.

“It helps them become better readers or learners – anything you can do for them is a huge win, I think,” said Holmes.

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