This is What I Want to Do

street library in Peru

Maryori Vasquez Delgado is 24 years old and has been a member of ATD Fourth World in Cusco, Peru, for the past five years. She lives in Anta Province and, having previously graduated from the Professional School of Communication Sciences, is currently training to become a literacy mentor. Below she talks about her experience running a Street Library in Peru.

This is what I want to do

I learned about ATD Fourth World at the Street Libraries. There, I discovered that books are more than just reading materials and can be used to create human connections. I also came to understand how activities like Street Libraries can contribute to ending poverty.

The Street Libraries enhance children’s creative, emotional, social, and linguistic skills. Books help children to communicate and interpret the world around them. They also open the doors to knowledge, a vital tool for overcoming poverty.

“El Bochito Librero” (The Beetle Bookcase) was born

My experiences as a volunteer at the Street Library motivated me to replicate it in my hometown, Anta. I was really inspired by the children’s enthusiasm for the Street Library and book borrowing activities.

I was convinced that the use of books as an opportunity for people to come together needed to be replicated elsewhere.

Anta is a rural area, and a car is helpful for travel around the province. I have a 1980s Volkswagen, and I realized it could be a useful part of the project. And so “El Bochito Librero” (“The Beetle Bookcase”) was born. The children like the car because of its beetle shape, and even more so when it arrives loaded with books!

Initially, only a few boys and girls came, and I was scared it wouldn’t be as successful as I’d imagined. However, I was determined not to give up. Now, when the children see us, they’re excited and rush over to get the books. They are so eager to read them all that I always worry that I won’t have enough books!

Whenever I work, I set aside a part of my salary to buy new books and stationery. However, while it’s true that money is a vital part of setting up and maintaining a project, it’s not everything. At the Street Libraries, I realized that what the children value, above all, is the connection they have with the person running them, and it’s this connection that turns a project into an impactful experience.

I started “El Bochito Librero” with just a car, some petrol, a handful of books I’d borrowed from the Street Library, and the support of ATD Fourth World. There were times when I felt discouraged, but when I shared this with my colleagues at ATD, they reminded me that everything is a process and I should keep going. I’ve also received moral and material support from my family, friends, and the mothers of some of the children who visit.

I learned this at the Street Library

On top of being inspired by my experiences with ATD Fourth World, I have a personal motivation that keeps me going: I’ve always enjoyed reading, but because of economic circumstances, I didn’t have access to many books as a child. The books at school were complex and difficult to read. I read my first book, “Yawar Fiesta,” when I was 9 years old, and understanding it was a struggle. However, my love of books blossomed when I began reading short stories.

Providing children with quality books suited to their thinking and reading skills is really important.

To me, the idea of taking a library full of quality books to communities experiencing poverty is an act of justice.

It feels like fixing what was missing when I was a child, and it’s important to me because I know that there are children nowadays in similar situations to mine. The delight that children express when borrowing a book touches me deeply.

Children are innately affectionate. Even without knowing you, they hug you, play with you, and give you their trust as if they’ve known you all their life. I stopped going to the Street Libraries for a few months, and when I returned, a little girl asked me, “You’ve been away for a long time; why didn’t you come?” This little comment made my involvement feel important and reaffirmed my commitment: this is what I want to do.

I’m no longer alone; I am part of a movement

Initially, I planned on volunteering at a local project, but when I came across ATD Fourth World, I discovered something much bigger. Street Libraries (and other ATD projects) are delivered in a way that feels really human and natural. Initially, when ATD’s activities were new to me, I was quite shy. But as time went on, I learned more, and I came to understand them better. I fell in love with this way of doing things.

I’m not just a Street Library volunteer but a member of ATD Fourth World as well. ATD’s objectives and my motivations are one and the same: “To give priority to those living in the worst conditions of persistent poverty in order to build a just and sustainable world that leaves no one behind.”

I am no longer alone: I am part of a movement, and at ATD Fourth World, we work together for the benefit of everyone.

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