Reading is a pleasure each of us holds most dear. From the moment we begin to understand how to make the letters on the page mean something we unlock the joy of stories, fantasy and learning. The mesmerizing and tantalizing stories we read allow us to be propelled into settings and story lines that can be like nothing we have or ever will experience in our real life. In short, reading is the beginning of a whole other life experience everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy.
We all know how fundamental reading is within the context of our educational system. Most of the time reading is a subject that will be stressed even as we attend college. This is true all over the world, since the need for education is universal. Being able to understand the printed word unlocks the potential for everyone to better their life and potential for unbounded growth.
But what if the ability to read is stunted? What if the reading material is not freely available? We are blessed in the United States and all the developed countries of the world. We have libraries chock full of whatever reading material we crave. Also we enjoy new technologies that allow us to use internet stacks all over the world, making our potential reading libraries unlimited.
About thirteen months ago I visited a village called Maya Mopan near the capital city of Belize, Belmopan where a team of missionaries operate a tutor center aimed at extending the gift of learning to the children of the surrounding villages. This center is called the Heart House and I could go on for another 6,000 words about how many ways that title fits the goal, but that is not my purpose with this post. Instead I want to share with you the campaign to enlarge the library within.
When I visited in December of 2012, the library was a small space as you will see in the picture above. In conversation with one of the ladies who teach there, I learned a new library was coming soon. Keep in mind that in Belize there is not an abundance of locales to purchase books. With this in mind I decided to start a project within my church to gather 600 children’s books to help supplement the larger library.
In October we made the shipment of books to Heart House ahead of a planned mission trip the second week of December. Along with distributing backpacks with a book or two inside, we planned to construct the book shelves necessary to transform the newly finished library shell into a usable space. This was a project I concentrated on for nearly twelve months, locating books from every source I could, including flea markets, homes and yard sales. Someone else’s extras or trash could be morphed into a priceless gift to a child without the means to secure their own.
One of the hardest thing about the two mission trips to Belize I have experienced was the transition back to my regular routine. When I got to a place where everything is cherished in a way we certainly do not know and return to the land of plenty and excess, it makes me feel ashamed. We take way too much for granted. Being a part of something like this is an effort to correct that fault.
We built the shelves for the library from plywood and lumber, trying to make our limited funds stretch as far as possible. The results were phenomenal and now the children have a new library to open their world through reading.
Good article Joe. Thanks for going.
I know how you feel. I have taught many people to read (I’ve been living in Latin America for almost twenty years, mostly in small towns and villages), and it’s so wonderful to help others to do something that is so basic for most Americans.
And going back home is tough after that kind of experience – especially when you hear people complaining about how hard their lives are and you remember those you met that don’t have enough food, medicine or education.
Yes, exactly about those in the USA complaining. I got a good lesson in that when my brother died at 29 seventeen years ago. I learned that material possessions do not matter. If I was set free i would likely give everything away to others.
YES! And while libraries are amazing and so very important, what I wish for each child is her or his very own books to wear out and love and hide under the pillow or in a secret spot. Thank you for doing so much and for sharing this.
That is why we made sure to put a book or two in the Christmas back packs we took with us to distribute during the mission trip.
How wonderful, you brining books to others. I love to read. I wish my boys loved it as much as I do. They’d rather play video games.
You are doing an exceptional and beautiful work Joe you have a heart of gold. Loved these wonderful photos.
You are an integral part of a beautiful, humanitarian solution. Bravo!
Thank you. I was honored and blessed to be touched by this and be able to help them along toward their goal. I am looking forward to pictures from there of the library completely filled and put to use.
As an avid reader myself, it warms my heart to know you built a library for those in need. Love that last picture of that little boy sitting on the bench reading.
I felt like they deserved that pleasure we enjoy so much. I feel like the benefits will extend for decades.
Libraries are so empowering.