domingo, 11 de julio de 2010

Highlights of 2009

Looking back on time we often wonder what effect we have had in the scheme of things, the events that have occurred in our lives. As the CCC Library celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2009, I had extra impetus to reflect on effects. In 1998 when I first moved to Peru the concept of a library was unknown in the rural villages. The local people thought that I, being a white person speaking English, was going to build an English school. Through conversations with locals and informational folders about what a library is and the resources it offers, the concept of a library was introduced. Still, the first three young girls that came with their mother could not read and their mother could read just a bit. It was clear the goal was to teach reading and love of books. We are now serving the second generation of those early attendees. Instead of sharing numbers I want to share an anecdote that best reflects the goal and mission of CCC.

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.

Scholarship Update
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

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.

sábado, 14 de marzo de 2009

News and Photos 2008

March 1, 2009

Dear Library Friends-

We had a very good 2008 at the Centro de Conocimiento Compartido Library: reading, exploring new ideas, writing, and taking a couple field trips. I´ll tell you all about it but first an adventure.
The official year began with a safety precaution: removing trees that were leaning ominously toward the library! People who have had the opportunity to visit the library will remember that our garden is full of trees, over 30, some avocados, mangos, grapefruit, cedars and hardwoods, plus flowering bushes and shrubs, many planted by the library and the kids. Since the library building provides an open space in the s
ky, the taller trees naturally wind up leaning towards the building. Before opening day we sent notes to the families who regularly participate in our activities to gather for a meeting. After a look at the trees in question to decide which were imminently dangerous and some lively arguments about which way to cut them to accomplish the desired fall trajectory the parents had their plan. We would return the next morning at 6am with ropes, axe, and machetes. And so we did. Here´s how it works. First the ropes are tied together. Then the line is tied to a heavy stick which is hurled over an appropriate branch. That sounds simple but can be quite tricky when one has to avoid all the other intervening branches. In a couple cases it was impossible and someone had to climb the tree to establish the line. In one tree Wilder disturbed a wasp´s nest before reaching the branch. Colorful language from above and laughs from below pursued. (One lovely characteristic of jungle culture is that discomfort is taken with a grain of salt.) Once the line is set chopping begins. At the halfway point everyone lines up, tug-of-war style with people on one side and tree on the other. Imagine twenty people lined up holding the line, those closest to the tree with feet nearly dangling. When the tree starts to give the tugging increases to bring the tree round to the desired direction. As the tree begins to free fall tuggers run for cover. It is always good to plan the escape route beforehand and remember to not put yourself between the rope and an immobile object. In three hours five of the six trees were down. The parents decided that the last tree, which looked very healthy, didn´t need to be cut because even if it fell by itself it wouldn´t hit the library.
With trees safely down we could begin the year. Our daily activities included reading and discussing books, jigsaw and 3-D puzzles, math and word games, Scrabble, drawing, touch typing and computer skills. About 80 people participated in our regular activities throughout the year and our average daily attendance during the school year was 30. At the end of the year we awarded 63 Reading Club certificates to students who read 10 books or more. Of those, twelve read over 100 storybooks, eight more read over 200 books and six students read over 300 books. In November nearly 150 students from a dozen surrounding villages participated in the annual Spelling and Grammar Contest. This event has grown in proportions and excitement similar to local soccer championships. Emotions run high inside the library as the competition warms-up and local people set up refreshments outside in the yard. This year we also organized two essay writing contests, one for recent high school grads and another for local parents. All winners were announced at the Spelling and Grammar contest.

We often give “prizes” for the language games we play at the library or have free raffles just to keep things interesting. One Thursday afternoon we had a raffle for several jigsaw puzzles of 500 pieces. The students love to do jigsaws in group at the library and we often work a week or two to complete them. So they were excited to have the chance to win one to take home. To my surprise the following Monday twins Luz and Richard came in huffing and puffing carrying a large piece of plywood between them. Luz and Richard walk 30 minutes to come to the library and cross a major stream in canoe on the way. They were bringing the jigsaw puzzle that they had won on Thursday afternoon and finished over the weekend. I was truly impressed that not only had they focussed their entire weekend working on it but that they carried it all the way to the library to show us. I took it to Iquitos to put under glass and it is now hanging in their house. They are really proud of their efforts.

Luz and Richard with their finished puzzle

Winners of the Olympics with golden dracmas

The junior and senior high students in the Reading Circle chose four books to read. Their unanimous first choice surprised me, a youth “encyclopedia” on Ancient Greece. Many had seen the movie Troy with Brad Pitt and were thus attracted by the theme. The book was full of information about the evolution of philosophy, art, math, medicine, trade, history, political thought, architecture and sports. We looked at how many developments of ancient Greece are still in our present society. At the end we divided into three teams and held our own Greek Olympics – a Jeapordy style competition including all the aforementioned categories. The students played for golden dracmas (greek/chocolate coins) notebooks and pens. Younger students had their own word and alphabet events. On book lending day at the end of the week I noticed that two students took home similar books about Ancient Rome and Ancient Egypt. The Reading Circle also read Julie of the Wolves. This to date is the students´ longest accomplishment – 250 dense pages. The story is about an Inuit girl who has to come to terms with the integration of traditional Inuit culture with “modern” lifestyles. The theme is apropos to the events that are taking place now in the rainforest as traditional society is being influenced more and more by outside economy, ideology, and technology. We used the encyclopedias in the computers to learn more about the tundra, wolves, and other unfamiliar themes.

Communication tools at the library came in several forms this year. On June 24, John the Baptist Day, I received the gift of a juane the traditional food for the celebrations, from Julio our library maintenance man. As I was not present at the moment he came by he had to leave a note. But since he had no pen or paper he found the leaf bud case from a cecropia tree and scratched the message onto its pure white interior using a twig. A natural chemical reaction makes the scratched part turn dark brown. So I had a perfectly legible message in a very beautiful form. It read “A juane for Nancy Dunn from Julio Ramirez” We also had the opportunity to expand our technology with a gift of solar panels and two PCs from engineers at Colorado University. So we now have four computers for library use – two laptops and two PC. In 2009 we would like to add one more computer so that we have four for student use and one designated solely for administrative use. The students are enjoying learning the additional skills. These skills will help them join and express themselves in the global community. I do hope, however, that they will never lose the lovely local knowledge that Julio demonstrates.
For several weeks at the beginning of the year Cindy Smith, a volunteer from Michigan, helped enter data for our new electronic card catalogue. Thank you Cindy. We are using a Microsoft Excel program that can be manipulated to show the collection according to author, title, subject etc. Throughout the rest of the year I entered the registration info, shelf list info, and Dewey info. Future book searches and inventories will be much easier. One nice plus with the electronic catalogue – no scurrying cockroaches when you open the catalogue drawers!

Over the years we´ve shown many films at the library-some adventure, some classics and some documentaries. Films are a good compliment to books and books to film. In 2007 we showed two versions of Prokoviev´s ballet Peter and the Wolf. Motives in the orchestra are assigned to each character and so kids can learn to recognize instrumental sounds and hear how the story is intertwined with music. The first version was a cartoon version with Lloyd Bridges as narrator telling the story to his grandson. It was very appealing to the library kids. The second version was a ballet presented by the London Childrens Ballet company. I was expecting lots of laughs when the boys in tights came prancing out but instead the students were absorbed. In 2008 we added a book version of the Peter and the Wolf to the library. When we read it together we hum a couple of tunes from the ballet too. Another film we enjoyed this year was Moby Dick. The Reading Circle had read a very abridged version of this work (ie 45 pages) and when offered a handful of films from which to choose – including their favorite karate films- they chose Moby Dick. That was a pleasant surprise.

Fran Pinedo, our scholarship student, finished his three year course in tourism. He now has to do a 3 month internship and write a thesis. His mentor for the thesis will be Fernando Saavedra our administrator. We hope Fran finishes. The library provided a scholarship to Angel Paz, our music workshop teacher, for one month´s study at the National Conservatory of Music in Lima. Angel also leads a childrens choir in Iquitos and is an invaluable resource for the culture. Katerin Perez Bardales, a 2008 high school graduate and a regular library attender for the past eight years, has a scholarship from the library to study computation in Iquitos for 2009. Katerin on the first day of classes

We took the small kids to Iquitos to visit Pilpintuhuasi the butterfly farm, a naval ship museum, and the zoo. We have done a similar trip every year since the library opened. The trip was going fine until late in the afternoon at the zoo when I was mugged while walking with a group of the littlest kids. The assailants threw me to the ground and grabbed the contents of my bag which spilled on the ground. They stole the library´s cell phone and camera and a few personal articles. But they didn´t get the cash or bank debit cards. I grabbed one guy´s foot and he fell down. The zoo security got him later in the woods. He did have my clock in his pocket but none of the valuables. The other thief took the rest of the stuff. Unfortunately the police were not
interested in recovering the items. Our next field trip to Iquitos will include some fathers!

Sandra and Jim Achenbach visited this year and worked with the students to draw comic strip characters and write stories. They presented a little theater at the end of the week. Thank you Jim and Sandra.

In 2008 we ran two pilot branches of the library at two villages outside our daily visitors range. In each village an adult volunteered to be in charge. The program started with a two day training session at the main library to familiarize the volunteer librarians with ways to read with kids, to animate their desire to read, and to increase their comprehension. The volunteers also participated in two reading days at the library. We gave each branch library a module of books and book display case as well as some word games and other logic games. The book modules were changed once a month via a local peque-peque boat. We had many journeys through rain and lightening. We discovered early on that the villages did not have adequate or appropriate space to use as a reading room (although on their application form to the program and in interviews they assured us that they did) and that librarians were not opening the branches as promised. We began to visit twice a month and on several occasions opened the library ourselves. In one village a young father was running the library. While his intentions and efforts were pretty good he didn´t have enough reading skills himself to animate the kids. In the second village the local school teacher volunteered to run the library but rarely opened up. There were 12-15 kids in each village which participated. That is alittle more than we started with at the main library 10 years ago. The kids in both villages were like our own library kids, open to participating and enjoying the experience. The teachers also took advantage of the books and magazines. This was a very good trial for us. It was clear that our library kids read much better than kids who haven´t had access to the library. It is also clear that the interest among the kids in other villages is definitely there but we will need a paid professional to run branches. We hope to bring the plan to fruition in 2010.

CCC Pilot Branch in Sapo Playa (Frog Beach)

In the coming years we would like to bring more long-term volunteers to teach at the library and hope to build a teacher/volunteer house attached to the library this year. Rotary Clubs in Canada and the States are organizing the effort. With volunteers we will be able to do more personal teaching on a daily basis and gain many new perspectives.

In 2009 we have two exciting new projects planned. One is to publish a monthly newspaper with the library kids to be distributed to a dozen nearby communities. We will learn about editting and managing texts and publishing. The other project is to help local high school graduates to start their own business. We will host an information fair where local youth can explore the possibilities of creating their own business.

I only had one snake in the roof of my house in 2008. Having two dogs may have intimidated others. Mother nature did however make her presence known sending a variety from her carpet bag. During February, March, and April I had army ants in my house several times every week while the water level rose. On one occasion they caught me in the outhouse and rained down on my head from above. I made the quickest exit possible but had to strip as I ran out. They had gotten into my shirt. The same morning a sloth fell out of a capirona tree in the front yard. The branch it was hanging on broke. The dogs went crazy circling it. When I finally got close enough to pick it up it hugged my forearm so tight that its sharp claws made a good cut. Locals told me later that I should have offered it a branch to hold! I hosted a few botfly larvae. The way I understand it is a botfly catches a mosquito, lays its eggs on the mosquito´s proboscis and when the mosquito bites it injects the eggs into the host. The eggs hatch and develop into worms. Locals say they fly away when they are mature but I´ve never seen one get that far. I squeeze them out of my dogs who get many from spending time in dense brush in swampy areas. One larva in my forearm got badly infected. I realized it when I saw the red lines growing up my arm. Antibiotics from the Yanamono clinic saved the day! In November I had my first case ever of jungle fever – dengue. Really, it is city fever. I was infected by a mosquito while in Iquitos. Finally, a thank you to my father for his advice to always check my shoes before putting them on. I remembered it well one day as I dumped a scorpion out of my rubber boot. Those are the exciting stories. There are plenty of beautiful awesome goosebump moments too like the sparkling illunination of the forest during a sun shower or the intense fragrances of trees in bloom. There is always a surprise from nature just around the corner. The forest is ever creating but never permanent.

The library´s programs and personal have grown over the years. Besides myself the staff now includes Lara a local woman who is a teaching assistant, Julio the maintenance man, and Fernando who does purchasing and communications for us in the city. We also have individual teachers for special workshops. Besides the daily reading and teaching that we provide, we take several field trips a year, provide scholarships, and organize special workshops and inter-community events. To continue offering all these programs we need to broaden our donor base and hope that you, our friends, will spread the word about the CCC Library Project.
We appreciate all that you have done in the past and will do in the future.

Many, many thanks for all your support.

Nancy Dunn

PS – Late in the year the sixth tree, the one that the parents decided to leave standing, fell. Apparently it was top heavy from a prolonged downpour. The parents were proved correct. It indeed missed the library . . . by about six INCHES! Going home after a day´s work. It´s a nice commute.

domingo, 1 de junio de 2008

Here is the latest news from the library.

Dear Friends:

Just this morning we sent notification, via local wooden boat, to three villages that they will be the first in our pilot program to circulate our collection to villages outside of our daily range. One village is on the far side of the river, opposite of where the boats usually travel, so no boat wanted to take the letter. But we agreed to pay the fare for a person rather than just for mail and so hopefully it has now been delivered. We sent 15 invitations and had 10 responses. Each village will receive 150 books each month. A parent and teacher in each village have volunteered to be librarians. They will come to the main CCC for two days and work with our students, Fernando, Lara, Don Julio and me to get an idea of how they can organize a reading club and other activities at their little library.

Here are some photos from 2007.
1. Carlos being a kid. 2. At the School of Art. 3. Fernando leading kids between the tanks at the water treatment plant . 4. A busy day during the teacher´s strikes. 5. Trying the San Felipe Apostle church organ in Lima.

I´m playing a little organ music each day, preparing concert repertoire for 2009. So far a Bach trio and a concerto, a Fantasia of Franck and now some Duruflè and Alain. Can´t cross my fingers for luck but my eyes feel crossed after a long practice. Best Wishes to you all. Nancy.

domingo, 30 de diciembre de 2007

Feb 2005

We were sitting on the riverbank in front of the library waiting for a boat which was taking its time in getting there. The moon had risen about one quarter of its ascent. Of the seventeen people who had come to help receive six hundred roof leaf panels, already eleven had gone home. After four hours of waiting the rest of us were getting punchy, telling jokes and acting silly when Wilder said "Hey Antonio, you are just like Jorge" Antonio was dangling from the handrail on the bridge. Wilder and Antonio are fathers of children who come to the library. Wilder has six children and Antonio has four But who is Jorge you ask? Jorge el Curioso-Curious George, that famous monkey of children's books. Wilder knew of Jorge because his kids had borrowed the book for a weekend and Alex, his son, had eventually won the book as a prize for reading 150 books in the reading club. There we were enjoying the effects of Jorge the Monkey even after the book had been closed. People sometimes ask me if I think the library has a lasting impact on the lives of the people here. My answer is YES!

April 2003

I have a new dog. A boat driver found her swimming in the middle of the river. She was just a puppy. She changed homes several times before she came to me. She loves to ride in the canoe and sleeps in a hammock. Spoiled? Maybe.A few days ago I noticed a bad smell in the house. I knew I had smelled it before but couldn't recall what it was. I also noticed the frog population diminishing. I thought maybe they were moving into the swamps since the water is getting higher. Yesterday when I was opening the front door a stick fell and hit me on the head and shoulder. I thought it was the roof support over the stairs...rotten and broken. I looked up but the roof was still there. I looked down and a large (2 1/2 meter or about 7 1/2 feet)whip snake was slithering away. That expained the decline in the frog population and the bad smell. Also explains the thumps in the night. Hope she comes back because she left one frog. I don't like frogs.

March 2002

The water is rising. And the animals and insects are fleeing to higher ground-which includes my house. Two weeks ago it was swarmed by army ants. Looked like an oil spill coming in from under the backdoor. I turned back the tide with insecticide...I can't imagine what would have happened if the ants came in the middle of the night. The floor was crawling with them in just five minutes. The stairs and outside floor boards looked like they were covered in shag carpeting.Last week I was greeted by a fer-de-lance snake on the front steps. It was sunning itself in the first sun after several days of rain.But high water also brings good things. I bought a piano a few weeks ago and it will be delivered just as soon as the water level makes smooth delivery. It's been almost four years since I've had a real instrument to play. It's an old German upright with a nice round sound. Brahms will be so nice to play!


Hello. This blog is part of the Centro de Conocimiento Compartido and Library Project web site:
The Centro de Conocimiento Compartido (Center for Shared Knowledge) and the Library Project are efforts to allow people who lives in the basins of the Amazon River next to Iquitos, in the south american country of Perú, have books and other materials to read. To have more information about this project, please click on the link above.
In this blog I would like share with you my experience conducting this project and receive your comments. At first I'm including some notes of the past years. I hope add more recent notes very soon. Thanks for reading.