April and Kevin in Kuna Yala, the northeast coast of Panamá

Monday, May 18, 2009

Update on Library Progress

Wow. Early on in our service, experienced volunteers warned us that the first year would be getting used to the community and the community getting used to you, and you talking about ideas and projects and ways of doing things, but not actually doing any of them. Then in the second year, things would start happening, and your community members would start implementing a few of the ideas you had talked about. Finally, in the final few months, your community would realize you were leaving soon and want to implement all of the ideas you had ever talked about, all at once (okay, maybe not all, but more than you have time to accomplish; maybe that's why they do follow-up volunteers).

Well, it isn't quite like that, but we've certainly seen an uptick in organized scheduling of activities. Last Sunday, we had a community meeting about the library, to discuss where to house it and how to use it. Attendance was limited, but with Cecilia and Maria Luisa (two of our host moms and community leaders) there, it was very productive, and they decided to talk more about it on Wednesday at a Padres de Familia meeting at the school. They assigned each person (well, everyone but us, which was a pleasant surprise) at the Sunday meeting a section of the island to alert about the Wednesday meeting. It was amazing how quickly the word got around; I left site Monday and was asked Monday afternoon about the meeting.

On Wednesday, we had 27 people at the meeting at the school, including the maestra. Cecilia led the discussion and guided them through deciding where to store the books and how to make the books accessible to the community. It was amazing, organized, and productive.

(One of the best parts about this meeting? April and I understood about 97% of the conversation, even when multiple people were talking. What a change from our first Padres meeting we attended!)

The current plan is on 21 May, they'll use a chainsaw to make planks out of a tree that is already down on the school property, which is where they intend to house the library until they can build it its own house off school property. Then on 23 May, they will have a junta (work party) to build bookshelves, which they decided on in the meeting as the best way to make the books visible and upright with spines readable.

On 5 June (April will be gone a week in the midst of that to teach a course at Isla Coiba National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site), they will transport all the books to the school, organize them. And we will discuss amongst the volunteers interested what hours it will be open. (Transporting and organizing the books will be a hefty effort. Between the books we have and the books Cecilia has from a Club de Leones - Lions Club - donation, there are probably 10 or 11 ft of books, around 300, from thin kids books like Dora the Explorer, to the first three Harry Potter's, to thick health books, like Donde No Hay Doctor - Where There is No Doctor - and Qué Se Puede Esperar Cuando Se Está Esperando - What to Expect When You're Expecting.)

Finally, on 9 June (si Dios quiere - God willing), they will have an Opening Party to open the library to the community, announce office hours, and demonstrate the check out procedure, which was the other part of the library discussion at the meeting. After much consideration and discussion on the relative merits of protecting the books by not allowing them to leave the room versus giving people the chance to read at their leisure and to their kids by allowing them to take them home, as well as how to plan for replacements of damaged books, they decided:

  • Adults only may check out books;
  • Two weeks is the check-out period;
  • No deposit is necessary to check out a book;
  • One book at a time;
  • Privledges will be suspended if you destroy a book;
  • Renewals are allowed, but you must bring the book back to request checking it out again
So it sounds like a lot of work in the time remaining, but it also sounds well thought-out and do-able.

But the other big topic of discussion during the meeting was the interest in making an Estufa Lorena at the school. So, overlapped with that schedule of events for the library, they intend to modify the table in the kitchen, collect materials, and build an Estufa. After two years encouraging the construction of a school estufa, it is thrilling that they are going to do it, but we really wish they would have decided this a few months ago.

So now we're talking about a lot of work in the time remaining. Maybe those experienced volunteers were right. We'll be sure to warn the newbies on what to expect.

1 comment:

Kori said...

Congratulations on the Library and the Estufa. Both are an important part of your legacy on the island.