by George Lamb, President, PAVA Foundation
In 2013, it will be 30 years since Dennis Wheeler and Michael Shawcross organized a relief effort to help five highland communities isolated by the terrible violence of the war in Guatemala. This led to the formation of PAVA: Programa de Ayuda a los Vecinos del Altiplano (Aid Program for Highland Communities). From there, PAVA Guatemala established its reputation for grass roots organizing and working in partnership with the Mayan people of Chimaltenango for community development and relief programs. In 1986, PAVA Foundation was established in the United States to raise financial support for PAVA Guatemala.
Over the years PAVA has completed many development projects from building bridges, schools, water and sanitation systems to providing educational and scholarship programs. It has continued to provide its relief expertise when needed after hurricanes and earthquakes. And all of this is done in true partnership and shared responsibility with the highland community members themselves.
As these communities have progressed and their quality of life improved they are able to focus on needs beyond basic survival. Due to the great reception given to the PAVA bookmobile project, PAVA was approached by communities to help them organize and manage their own permanent libraries. The clear understanding that knowledge empowers and changes lives made this idea an attractive project for PAVA. After months of research and consultation PAVA reached the conclusion that drawing on its own skills and deep experience working with highland communities it could facilitate the creation and organization of community libraries. And so, this year, PAVA helped to open libraries in three communities in the highlands.
Although a library is intended to serve the community as a whole, we are already witnessing the impact on children participating in the reading programs. In remote rural areas where it is still a very real challenge for the government to provide qualified teachers and school supplies, the community library as a learning center can make a critical difference in a child’s education. During June, I visited two of the three community libraries now established with the aid of PAVA. While attending reading classes for the school age children of Panimachavac and Paxixil, I was informed by parents and teachers what a difference the libraries have already made for the children in a very short time. They are gaining confidence and an enthusiasm for learning that can form the basis for achieving a better education.
This is an exciting time in the story of PAVA as we devote a major focus on the organization of community library projects. Shortly, we will announce that the free standing library center PAVA helped to design and build in the community of Paxixil is open and in operation. After almost 30 years, the work of PAVA continues have a positive and meaningful impact on the lives of the Mayans of Chimaltenango. This is the impact that you have as friends and supporters of PAVA.
Thanks and regards,