July 2014

Education Campaign 2014

I remember sitting in the library office with Lucia dreaming about what could come for the future of Living Libraries (more than a year ago). We tossed several big ideas around that day, but one that became a reality this past month was an international education campaign that included speakers from the U.S. and Peru. I am excited to share my reflection of this event.

We began Living Libraries because there isn’t a culture of literacy here in Peru. Educators’ opportunities for professional development are few and far between. We start libraries, but one of our biggest goals in Living Libraries is to equip teachers with strategies for the classroom. In the school where we work this year, teachers from each grade level (1-6) attend a once-a-month staff development meeting to discuss the strategy we model throughout the month. I cherish this time with the teachers. It builds our relationships with them, and I know how beneficial the time can be to discuss the strategy as professionals without students present.
While our man power is low, and we can only manage to work with 2-3 schools each year, a door was opened for us to spread professional development to close to 100 teachers. Lucia worked countless hours to make the campaign a reality. She scored a way for us to host the campaign on one of the city’s most esteemed university campuses. She contacted and communicated with several big names in Peruvian education to come and speak at the campaign, along with several professors from the hosting university. It was a wonderful week, and a fantastic first campaign. There were, of course, a few glitches, but if there is something our NGO knows it is “live and learn.” We learned a lot from this first experience.
CUDA is blessed beyond measure to have two of its board members specializing in education. Dr. Clara Carroll and Dr. Ileene Huffard made the long trip to Arequipa to participate in the campaign, check out the Living Libraries in action, and meet with CUDA staff in person. It was an honor to be named their week-long tour guide. It was an absolute blessing for the two of them to see the library this year. The school surprised them with a show of traditional Peruvian story and dance. Both doctors spoke 3 different times in the areas of literacy formation, child development, instructional strategies, and reading comprehension. They were a huge hit with the Peruvian teachers attending the conference. It was an absolute delight to have them share their expertise with many hard-working teachers who don’t have access to new materials in the education field. We were beyond thankful to have them as keynote speakers.

Two other speakers that I really enjoyed meeting were Javier Arevalo and Manuel Herran. Javier is a Peruvian author who started an NGO in Lima called Recreo. His NGO starts libraries in schools, but they have a strong emphasis on parental involvement. We really enjoyed sharing ideas with Javier, and there is potential for an alliance to develop between our two groups in the future. Javier is also responsible for a Peruvian law that was passed for a national reading plan in the public schools. Manuel is a professional story-teller. In his talk, he presented Jim Trelease’s work on the “Read-Aloud.” He tours the country of Peru speaking on behalf of the publishing company, MacMillan. He has agreed to come and tell a story to our school this year the next time MacMillan brings him through Arequipa.

The campaign was every evening (M-F) from 3:30 pm to 7:30 pm. All that attended received a certificate of professional development hours for 120 hours stamped by the ministry of education (these hours also included extra technology and follow-up on the topics presented). Their certificates can be applied toward incentives from the ministry.
For me, the major highlights that came from the campaign were (1) CUDA’s name getting out there; (2) the new relationship that CUDA has with Recreo; and (3) Clara and Ileene seeing the work in person. The final day, a teacher approached me and asked, “When will you all be offering another opportunity like this?” That comment was icing on the cake. Living Libraries will be seeking out other opportunities in the future to help and equip the education professional community of Peru.

Life Transformation Groups

The whole church has recently celebrated the start up of Life Transformation Groups, where everyone has a group which they meet up with to read the Bible and pray. In this regard the church has tackled the challenge of sacrifice, commitment to each other, and deeper knowledge of the Bible.

I have been blessed to meet with Alfredo and the time reading the bible together has reminded me of the usefulness of taking time simply to read together. My heart has been equally challenged and encouraged from the time. Solely taking time to be together is clearly an essential aspect of being a church family, to allow for the opportunity to share and grow together. The brief time we have been meeting to read through 2 short books (Ruth and Titus) together has impacted me, greatly. I‘m looking forward to seeing the continued impact of an entire church sharing in the maturity of reading the Bible together frequently.

Adjusting to a New Culture

My wife Sarah and I worked hard in planning for work here in Arequipa and in eventually moving here. God has made this wonderful opportunity a reality for us and we are so very thankful to Him. We have been living here for 5 months now. The newness of it all is starting to wear off. As silly as it sounds, I’m starting to realize that I don’t live in California or Arkansas any more. Culture shock is a curious thing. We definitely went through a honeymoon stage. Now we realize we are here to stay and it is no vacation. It is hard at times. Apparently culture shock can make you exhausted. This is the case with me. By the time we get our kids to bed, I am longing for bed myself.  It has been a rough past couple of weeks. We miss home and family and certain things here are difficult to get used to. We are in a pretty constant state of heightened awareness that we could be pick-pocketed (Sarah actually was) or be overcharged for something because we don’t know any better (which has already happened). We are making good progress in our Spanish language acquisition, but miss or don’t understand things here and there. Things like throwing trash on the ground or letting dogs do their business wherever they desire are much more common than I wish they were. More frequently than we like, new friends/acquaintances don’t call when they say they will, or don’t show up for a scheduled meeting altogether. 
However, there are two sides to a coin. Although this acquisition is hard, there are so many great things happening that God is allowing us to be involved in.  From simple acts of sharing our faith to formal Bible studies, from experiencing people’s willingness to help us newbies to making new friends, from enjoying new food to sharing a meal with new friends, life here really is a blessing. We couldn’t be more pleased with our landlords and our apartment. Our Peruvian brothers and sisters in Christ have received us with open, loving arms and we already love them so much and feel close to them. We have received great advice from our new closest Peruvian friends as well as the veteran missionaries who have been here for over 5 years. What an experience this has been. We hope to have many more years to come here in Arequipa working for God’s glory and for the expansion of His kingdom. Please keep us in your prayers as we adjust to this culture and learn to live and thrive here.