Update: October 3, 2019
Because of a generous gift from Georgia Educational Training Agency, our friends in El Chonco will be taking a deep dive into books for the next three month. Georgia ETA is sponsoring three experts to teach classes in Biblioteca Sissi. An artist, an architect, and a professor are taking their passions to the library- and celebrating them with books. Twice a week, each teacher crafts a lesson focused around their area of expertise and centers it around a book in the library. The classes pack out the library with people from all corners of the community. The courses this session include an art class, an architecture class, a theater class, and a book club for adults. We couldn’t be prouder to see 30 teenagers (some of whom didn’t finish elementary school) fill our library’s classroom, desperate to open a book. Stay tuned to see how their projects turn out!
Update: July 30, 2019
With exuberant hearts, we return for a brief trip to Nicaragua, energized and excited. We walked through the doors of the library to see it aflutter with activity. Children were littered throughout our main room, giggling over pictures books or piecing together puzzles. Mothers sat with babies on their laps, reading aloud. Still other adult women spread out at tables- some of them reading a chapter book for the first time in their lives. Betty, our hero librarian, held a captive audience as she led a group of students in literacy activities. We could not have imagined a better picture!
Update: November 26, 2018
Though the media surrounding the situation in Nicaragua has quieted down since the riots this summer and fall, the unrest between Daniel Ortega and the Nicaragua people continues. Because of the violence, many schools will hold their December promotions with empty seats. Too many students lost their lives in efforts to raise their voices. The number of young people killed, injured, or held hostage reaches over 2,000, and tragically continues to grow as the weeks drag on. Though the fire of unrest seems to have dwindled down to embers, the spark of injustice that ignited the flames of protest in April still remains. Peace talks from President Ortega brought forth empty promises and ambiguous solutions that left the country without substantial change. Please continue to wrap our Nicaraguan family in your prayers.
In spite of the turmoil, Biblioteca Sissi stands defiant. Tucked away from the protests, life in El Chonco goes on as normal. The local school still cancels classes when it rains too hard, and the self appointed neighborhood DJ still blares 80s worship music over his loudspeaker at 5 AM. Soccer games are only interrupted by the occasional dog, rooster, or toddler wandering across the field, and the store never runs out of cokes sold in plastic bags. Most importantly, the doors of our library remain open to any curious mind. Betty, our librarian, opens the library to teachers during school hours and holds a story hour each afternoon for all willing listeners. Children and adults alike are falling in love with the same books you and I love to savor, and characters are coming alive before their very eyes. Hope grows big in that little building.
We remain in close contact with our friends in Nicaragua, and continue to monitor the situation carefully. We are hopeful for a trip this spring, where we will set the stage for a range of classes, where we can continue to incorporate literacy through whatever avenues we can. Stay tuned for ways that you can sponsor activities in the library! As always, thank you for joining us on this journey. We believe in redemption, and our hearts rejoice in shared hope.
Carmen and Kelly
Update: June 10, 2018
Many of you have reached out to us asking about the current situation in Nicaragua, as there have only been bits and pieces of covered in the news. We want to educate you, our Cuentos family, on the events taking place, and to ask you to spread the word about the needs of our friends in Nicaragua to everyone willing to listen.
Before we go any further, please rest assured that our library in El Chonco, Biblioteca Sissi, is fully operational and our friends in El Chonco are not in any danger. However, as schools in the city are calling off classes and those enrolled in university are unable to attend because of safety concerns, the library is playing a more important role for members of our community than ever.
Currently, the country of Nicaragua is at a state of civil unrest. The controversial leadership decisions made by President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, are being questioned by the Nicaraguan people. On April 19th, peaceful protests led by university students against Social Security reform elicited a violent government response. Since the first protest, over 120 people have been killed. Several important buildings throughout the country, including the Masaya marketplace, Granada's colonial City Hall, and non government controlled radio stations, have been bombed and burned. Roadblocks have been put up all over the country on important access roads, and protesters fill the streets in major cities. Many people are calling for the resignation of the Ortega Administration.
The Catholic Church has stepped in to mediate peace talks, as recently as this Thursday. President Ortega has asked for a few days to consider the options presented to him. We are praying for a peaceful resolution.
Because of the current situation, we will not be traveling to Nicaragua until all the protests have been resolved. Though we are heartbroken to not spend a summer sitting on Doña Justa's front porch and reading books underneath the shade of volcanoes, we know the library is in very good hands with our librarian, Betty, and caretaker, Santos. Thanks to the generosity of our friends at Amigos for Christ in Chinandega, we were able to fill a container with books and furniture. The container arrived earlier this week, and Santos has his hands full putting together IKEA tables and chairs and Betty is busy stocking the shelves with books! We love knowing that it has become a spot of refuge for so many in the community.
Please pray with us for peaceful and progressive resolutions. We are hopeful that the country is moving in the right direction and the right changes can be made. In the meantime, we need your continued support. As mentioned before, it is more important than ever to keep the lights on in the library and the doors open for all of those curious minds. Please consider joining our family of monthly donors as we continue to provide opportunities for our families in El Chonco. Click here for more information. If you have any specific questions or want to know more about the situation, please get in touch!
Thank you for all your love and support!
Gratefully, Kelly and Carmen
Update: February 2, 2018
What a productive trip! Though it was short, we were able to get a ton of things accomplished. Betty and Santos, our librarian and caretaker, now have official bank accounts. Their oldest son, Janiel, is now enrolled in university and starts next month. After a busy trip to the Managua Pricemart (the Latin American Costco), we have a few tables, chairs, and shelves that will suffice until our container arrives in June. The doors are officially open to serve the school during class hours, and to serve the entire community after 12 PM.
Update: July 2, 2017
We are so excited to be with our wonderful family in El Chonco. So many fantastic friends have joined us this summer to contribute their talents to this big dream. Our carpenter, Santos, is hard at work creating some amazing furniture to full our space, and we have a team of volunteers (from the community!) giving their time to spread rocks, pull weeds, and plant trees. While we work, word gets out that the gate is open-- and people pour in. Our space is not 100% ready yet, but we are thrilled to share the part of it that is with so many eager faces.
Our mobile library is underway! Three days a week this summer, we have gotten to work with first and second graders in the Andres Castro through art and literacy. The classrooms in Andres Castro are bookless, and we are so glad to help change that. For the first time, the teachers are being exposed to the Reader's and Writer's Workshop models, and we are hopeful this will impact their classroom schedules moving forward.
Update: April 2, 2017
Can you believe it? Our building is finally complete! We are in awe of how beautiful it is, and we are so proud of Osmar Navarez for all his hard work designing and coordinating. Now we just have to fill it! We've created a wishlist on Amazon of books and various supples, and are so grateful everyone who is helping us cross items off that list. We have partnered with an incredible design firm in Atlanta who is hard at work imagining a wonderland for our friends in Chonco. While our designers are offering their time as a donation, we need to provide the furniture and shipping. If you or someone you know would like to sponsor any part of that journey, please let us know!
Update: March 2, 2017
We are so excited to share with all of you that the library is almost complete. As soon as the bathroom is complete and doors/windows installed, our crew will be hard at work, painting the inside and outside. With the building nearly complete, we will be preparing to fill it with books and furniture!
La Casa Verde continues to make waves in our small beach community. Now that class is back in session, our CV crew is working alongside of the teachers at Andres Castro to promote recycling programs. This gives so many students the ever important opportunity to work with their hands while also making a difference in their community. They have already built dozens of trash cans that are keeping our beach clean!
Update: January 2, 2017
Our construction crew is hard at work. They have cleared the land and built our outside gate. Next week they will take down the old building and begin to lay the new foundation!
Our friends at La Casa Verde are keeping the students of Andres Castro busy. While school is out for the summer, CV is working hard to teach our younger community about the importance of recycling. They even got to participate in the holiday children's parade. Take a look at that Christmas Tree made from recycled materials!
Update: December 2, 2016
We are thrilled to announce that the El Chonco Library Project is under construction! On November 23, we signed our contract with our architect, Osmar Navarez, and have set a timeline of 10-12 weeks for completion. We are excited to see the progress over the next few months. Updates will be posted as we receive them.
Alongside of partner project, Casa Verde, we have submitted a proposal for ownership of an abandoned school on community land. The proposal has passed through appropriate hands in Leon and is now on its way to Managua for approval. We are hoping to use this land to create a community center that will house our library, literacy programs, garden, shared market space, stage, and community classes. Our current Casa Verde location will move to this center, and our CV team will continue to connect with community through their recycling programs, community led skill classes, chess clubs, and artisan opportunities.