This is a time of year where I’m especially thankful for Living Libraries and the impact they’re making in the lives of kids, teachers, and their families here in Arequipa. Our team is phenomenal—Lucia’s leadership and Nancy’s artistic spirit combine with teammates and volunteers to make a huge impact. It makes me thankful for all of you who follow along and support us with your constant giving, donating books, and praying for us as you share Living Libraries’ story with others along the way. Thank. You.
We are nearing the end of the calendar year, which in Arequipa is the same as nearing the end of the school year. For CUDA and Living Libraries, that means we’re coming down the home stretch, teaching our last reading comprehension strategy in October before trying to synthesize a year’s worth of work with teachers and students during the month of November.
In March we started another school year with four schools, two of them in their first year! Our team is led as always by our talented director Lucia, assisted by Nancy and Miriam, who just finished 6 months of training. I’m also volunteering again this year with the team. Big thanks to Decatur (AL) Rotary Club for donating $5,000 to stock all of the books in our two brand new school libraries, as well as the supplementary books in our other two school libraries. Big thanks as well to the Bobbie Solley Foundation who is paying for our Living Library team salaries. And to many of you who donate monthly or at the end of every year—thank you. CUDA couldn’t go on without you.
One of the funnest things I do each week is sit down with Alfredo, Paty, Lucia, Nancy, and Carmen and read through a few paragraphs of Cuando Ayudar Hace Daño—that is, When Helping Hurts. If you talk to any of us very long, you’ll know that this is one of Team Arequipa’s required books to understand what we’re trying to be and do in this city. The Spanish translation was published at the beginning of the year, and we’ve been making our way through it together once a week. I think of it in terms of staff development. As we work toward justice, wellbeing, and joy in the city, we renew the challenge to ourselves to continue to develop, to be repentant of practices that may have been easy but aren’t right, and to work together toward reconciliation.
March in Arequipa means the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. For CUDA, that means the beginning of a new year of work with the public schools who are part of our Living Libraries project. This year, we’re working with 4 schools, 30 teachers, and 560 kiddos and their families. Two of the schools are in their third and final year of the program, one school is in its second year, and we have one brand new school.
As a part of the Living Libraries program, the teachers are required to attend continuing education training sessions each month. Lucia and Nancy lead these, teaching reading strategies to the teachers. Past years, these training sessions have focused solely on reading strategies, but they decided that this year, since CUDA’s mission is to promote holistic wellbeing, they would try to do just that. Lucia has asked Jeremy to lead a few sessions on ethics and the PuraVida team to teach on health.
Three years ago this program opened its first library in an all-boys elementary school in a neighborhood called Miraflores. CUDA, through the Living Libraries program, is striving to increase a love for reading while bettering reading comprehension in kids throughout public schools. CUDA provides the books for a library within an elementary school if the school agrees to provide a space to put a library. Also as a part of this program the teachers are required to attend training workshops throughout the year to learn strategies to be able better to teach reading to their students.
Living Libraries is growing by leaps and bounds. This year we have four different schools in four different areas of the city. This is enough to keep everyone busy…yet we keep growing!
Living Libraries just started a new year! This year we have TWO new schools, ONE school in its second year, and ONE school in its third year. That is FOUR schools!!! This is obviously more teachers in the program than we have included in the past, and we are excited for the numbers of students we are reaching. Let me tell you about some of the changes this year.