In January we officially moved our pilot branch in Sapo Playa into its new permanent building thanks to a two year funding grant from Reach 4 Books. During that move a group of six fathers who can easily carry 120 lb sacks on their backs, were struggling to hoist a full bookcase up the stairs and into the new building. One father muttered something about paper weighing a lot. A few seconds later came the retort, “You know why this weighs so much? We aren´t just carrying paper, inside here we are carrying buildings, animals, boats, people, dinosaurs”, and the list went on. We all had a very good laugh as everyone chimed in their idea. At that moment I knew what effect the library has had on the lives of the people here. They know and appreciate what a library is and what resources it can offer for them. For the kids who read with us and their parents, a door has opened to worlds and ideas that they didn´t know existed before. They have seen too in books that their own culture and environment are known and appreciated by people in faraway places. Have we turned the tide of communal economic poverty to wealth or convinced everyone to conserve and protect their natural resources? No. What we have done is plant the idea in some minds that the world is full of all kinds of interesting, marvelous things, ideas, and activities, including what is at hand, and that people can know and enter into this larger universe if they choose. We are laying roads. Ultimately, it will be up to people to decide which road they want to pursue, where they want to go.
A New Branch of the CCC Library
A group of outstanding youth from California, ranging in age from 11-17, not only incorporated themselves as a non-profit organization REACH 4 BOOKS, they collected and donated well over a thousand books. The Reach 4 Books branch of the CCC is now open for reading four days a week. The librarian is a young woman, Liliana Reategui, who regularly attended CCC during her primary and secondary school years. After she graduated from high school she spent her time between Yanamono, where she grew up, and Iquitos. Her family will join her in Sapo Playa and we look forward to having her husband teach guitar lessons. Congratulations to Michael and Lauren and all the members of Reach 4 Books! You are providing a wonderful opportunity to the people of Sapo Playa and surrounding villages and are an inspiration for all of us
Workshop Highlights of 2009
Julia and Antonio, artists from Iquitos, led ceramic art classes early in the year. Using clay from the Rio Nanay, the first day was spent squishing the clay to find small pieces of organic materials and remove them, rolling clay balls and slamming them against the table to pop the air bubbles inside, then surrendering the balls to the teachers for final inspection. What fun, making a mess at the library! Day two focused on free abstract forms, day three on small receptacles, day four on nature, and day five on painting and varnishing. We didn´t fire the art because the ground was too wet to build an oven.
CCC hosted a “business” workshop for young adults, the purpose being to give the young people a venue to brainstorm about businesses they could create that would be sustainable and possible using the resources that they have on hand. Workshop leaders from private and governmental organizations in Iquitos led activities and many good ideas were explored. The library encouraged the workshop participants to develop an idea from the workshop or invent another of their own and return to us to help them get started with connections and other resources.
Our annual Spelling Contest was expanded to include an on-site essay writing event. The contestants were asked to write about the plants in their garden and the entries showed an impressive variety of approaches to the subject. The winner took a very emotional perspective, relating how he and his family felt while planting and tending the crops and how they felt when it was lost to a wind storm, while yet another entry was a humorous story about the monkey who sneaked in and ate the bananas.
A team from World Veterinarian Services visited us at the end of the year thanks to efforts by the local non-governmental-organization Amazon CARES. In addition to treating dogs and cats for parasites and vaccinating water buffalo for rabies the team was filming for a British television series The World Wild Vet starring veterinarian Luke Gamble. The series premiered in the UK on February 28,2010 and is available on Sky 1 and Sky1HD. There are some exciting scenes including one of the local Yanamonian buffalo throwing Luke to the ground. Luke won. The local men learned a new technique to grab the buffalo by the inside of their nose and we were all treated to great cowboy lasso techniques by the local guys.
Life During the Flood Season
The flood season was long in 2009. The ground was already soaked and muddy by mid March and the kids were coming to us through thigh deep water in several places for several weeks before they borrowed canoes from parents and friends. We took advantage of the dampness to look at cook books for a good soup recipe and found a hearty recipe which called for cooked green bananas, potatoes, eggs, ground meat and spices. For an afternoon we turned the earth under the office into a kitchen with an open air fire with everyone taking turns smashing cooked green bananas with the bottom of glasses and within two hours we had a huge pot of soup for everyone to enjoy.
The flood turned out to be the highest since 1999. At the library the water nearly topped the bridge that leads into the building and people set their fishing nets in our front yard. There was water standing under my house for the first time and I could canoe right up to the front steps. I enjoyed tadpoles and herons in the backyard as the water rose, and less romantic and more smelly, dead fish and vultures as it receded. A little brown camouflaged snake took refuge on my front steps for many days. She couldn´t be deterred by the broom (at arm´s length), although she had several swims, so I eventually let her stay.
Other New Projects
We launched a small local newspaper - La Tarrafa- that is distributed via local taxi boats to eight communities along the river. A tarrafa is cast fishing net used by the people here. Our Tarrafa catches local news and knowledge. The students writemany of the articles about local events and ideas that are interesting to them and utilize the books and computers at the library to find information about assorted topics including water treatment systems and health issues. They interview people for biographies and record results of local soccer championships. There is always a section of word games and activities and often a story to read. Fernando Saavedra, our administrator, is in charge of editing. Little by little the students will gain skills in writing, editing and design. They relish in trying all the different fonts and colors on the computer and like losing sight of the body of the article! But they have also discovered many things in the computer that we haven´t shown them!! We appreciate the donation of two laptops from friends in Colorado and two typewriters from friends in Utah towards this project.
Together with the newspaper project the students are learning about photography. They are really enjoying taking pictures of themselves, their home life, and newspaper related photos. We took an excursion to Iquitos to practice photography in a different environment. Try to imagine having no photographic record of your life until this year and you can imagine how excited the people here are to have access to photography. The kids even ran a little photography/portrait business for the first month. Thank you to Dottie and Dave and friends from Washington State who gathered digital cameras.
Katerin Bardales, our scholarship recipient, was studying computer programming at SENATI the national tech institute. She finished the year with a fine grade point average, earned a certificate from the institute as well as the right to continue in 2010 for the next cycle. She has chosen to concentrate now on computer graphic design.
Improvements to the Library and Volunteer´s Residence
Several Rotary Clubs from the US and Canada have given support for major capital improvements and technology projects. Thanks to their efforts we have been able to replace the wooden boards on the bridge out front, change the library´s thatch roof, and upgrade our electrical inverter. Rotarians from Belleville Ontario, Lenox Kansas and Logan Utah joined forces to finance a new volunteer/teacher house behind the library so we can now offer on-site lodging for our volunteers. We are using the new house regularly as an additional activity/classroom space and are looking forward to our first long term volunteers this summer. We want to bring fresh ideas to our programs via dedicated volunteers. Anyone interested in volunteering can receive an application information from firstname.lastname@example.org
In our tenth year many, approximately sixty children and youth ranging in age from 5 to 19 year olds came regularly to read and play word games. The average daily attendance was twenty readers. They read thousands of books, attended workshops, gained computer literacy, and improved writing skills. The library was featured twice in local newspapers: one article celebrating our anniversary and the second an article about innovative education in river communities. There seems to be a population boom in the 5-6 year old age group so we´re looking forward to increased participation in the reading programs in the coming years. Using computers and the newspaper La Tarrafa as well as our daily reading program and expanded workshops, we will continue to stimulate children and adults to cultivate their written expression as an important tool in the modern global community.
The continued support of so many volunteers and a dedicated Board of Directors is making the future of CCC very exciting. We extend our gratitude and thanks to Explorama Tours for their continued help in a variety of ways and to Heliconia Lodge for extending their friendship with in-kind services such as transportation.