Friday, February 26, 2010

Biblioburro Hoofs Books to Rural Nooks

When hundreds of children in the "abandoned regions" of the Colombian state of Magdalena need reading material, a small fleet of bookmobiles makes an arduous trek to provide it. The bookmobiles in question are Alfa and Beto, two donkeys who stubbornly insist that illiteracy is a national enemy and that kids need books no matter how poor or remotely located their village.

Luis Soriano, 38, is a primary school teacher living in La Gloria, Columbia. His personal glory is as mule-team driver, leading Alfa and Beto to their destinations in rural Columbia as they tote up to 120 books to children hungry for education.

"In [rural] regions, a child must walk or ride a donkey for up to 40 minutes to reach the closest schools," Soriano said. "The children have very few opportunities to go to secondary school. ...There are [few] teachers that would like to teach in the countryside.

"I saw two unemployed donkeys at home and had the idea [to use] them in my biblioburro project because they can carry a heavy load," Soriano said. "I put the books on their backs in saddles and they became my work tools."

Twice a week, Mr. Soriano saddles up his jenny and jack to travel to select villages -- up to four hours each way. They service 15 villages on a rotating basis.

"It's not easy to travel through the valleys," Soriano said. "You sit on a donkey for five or eight hours, you get very tired. It's a satisfaction to arrive to your destination."

"You can just see that the kids are excited when they see the biblioburro coming this way. It makes them happy that he continues to come," said a village resident whose two children take part in the program. "For us, his program complements what the children learn in school. The books they do not have access to ... they get from the biblioburro."

"For us teachers, it's an educational triumph," Mr. Soriano declared, "and for the parents [it's] a great satisfaction when a child learns how to read. That's how a community changes and the child becomes a good citizen and a useful person. Literature is how we connect them with the world."

And there, within Mr. Soriano's last sentence, is a veritable motto for the ages: Literature Connects Us to the World.


Full story at CNN.

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