Frances and Henry Riecken Foundation, Inc.
Rating: 4.8 stars 5 reviews
Location: 214 Lakeview Way Emerald Hills CA 94062 USA
Target demographics: rural communities in Central America
Geographic areas served: Central America
Programs: Each library offers varied programming including early childhood development, story hours, book clubs and youth activities.
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Having previously visited Guatemala, the "need" was compelling: nurturing and guiding the growth of newly created libraries in the hinterlands. I wanted to see how they operated in the digital age. I was invited to join a site visit with a Board member and planned a trip around it (taking Spanish classes in the charming city of Antigua.) The first stop was to visit the office and office staff at a plantation outside of town, the space being generously donated by a prominent, socially conscious Guatemalan owner. The small staff described what they do and how they do it. Then off to a two hour drive to Lake Atitlan, taking a launch to the village across the lake an hour away. By road the mountainous trip would have taken more than six hours. And they say this library was easier to reach than the 17 others in Guatemala! So how was it? My first reaction was surprise: it was not a new building but converted space that housed other community functions-- in the center of town. We arrived early as a group of 50 or more seniors paraded in for their weekly multi-generation one-on-one sessions with the young children. Attentive children (they were not actors!) actually listened attentively to the sage advice of the elders. I was told they were being told about the importance of preserving their culture and indigenous ways and language. However, in the next room there were three desktops fully utilized by three six or seven year olds. They were moving around the cursors, playing a game, and exploring the desktop. However, the locally-supplied internet connection was "down" that day because the single provider in the community was awaiting an equipment replacement. The kids were unsupervised at the time. One can only imagine how much could be done with good computer access, some training, and some "early adapters" that would help open the outside world to these young kids.
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