Something is Working

July 20, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m the one that’s all shook up.  I’m just getting back from doing some very powerful work with Reading Village in Guatemala and I’m still processing the experience.  It is difficult not to be overwhelmed by the sheer scale of poverty and palpability of oppression.  I come back with images of the smiles of an incredibly resilient Mayan people and I can not understand how they have withstood five centuries of aggression.  It is in this context that we were called to do our work.

Reading Village asked me to facilitate a “think tank,” an event that brought together a diversity of really amazing individuals, all steeped in a deep understanding of popular education.  Our task was to contribute to a field guide, a text that will facilitate the reproduction of Reading Village and its inspiring success in reading promotion and youth development.

You should have seen how much these people gave of themselves, of their wisdom and their passion.  You should have seen them bump up against the tensions of their differences, of their ideas of how change happens, and time and time again they managed to rise above it – all in service to this brilliant idea.  I wish you had seen how the founders stood in that space, open, flexible, learning – listening while standing strong in the conviction that this is the work of their hearts.

But by far the most powerful moment was our encounter with the reading promoters themselves.  These young Mayan people are something else, they stand differently, they hold themselves differently, we could see that they have had a taste of their own power, a glance at the possibility of freedom – and they are ready for it.  Then to see them doing their work, to see the love and the care with which they tend to the younger children that they read to, to see them act out their readings, to hear them translate from Spanish to their native Kaqchikel, to witness their experiments with all sorts of pedagogical techniques – it was mind blowing.  And they do all this as young people, with all the challenges of a teenage life, plus all the obstacles of a life in poverty – how does it happen?  I’m all shook up.

My heart broke while I was in Guatemala, I had to fight off despair at the seemingly impossible barrier of poverty, I had to deal with the facts of my own privilege.  But my heart also blew open, and it has become much bigger, because in the face of it all there is the miracle of human resilience – some things are evidently working and Reading Village is one of them – consider making a gift.

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  • Charlie says:

    This seems to have been a transformational experience. Thanks for sharing this bit about your work. Truly amazing.

  • Rebecca Cutter says:

    Thank you for such skillful and thoughtful facilitation Gibrán. Reading Village is making waves in the rural community of Concepción Sololá. Its innovative literacy program evokes social change in the lives of its teen reading promoters, young children and the larger community. We can see the empowerment of Maya youth as they become aware of their very special role in the community and in this world.

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