Voices from Chajul: Intern Insights: 5 Years Later

Posted on Aug 23, 2016

Written by: Katie Zechnich, 2016 Limitless Horizons Ixil Summer Intern

Si no venimos, no aprendimos” (If we don’t go, then we don’t learn), says Sebastian (age 7) about the Saber Sin Límites (Limitless Knowledge) Community Library, Chajul’s first and only library started by Limitless Horizons Ixil in 2010. Sebastian said this to me while I interviewed him as part of my summer internship with Limitless Horizons Ixil. While in Chajul I had the opportunity to learn about how members use the library, what they learn while visiting, and what additions they would like to see. All of the library users I spoke with said the library is a place that makes learning fun and is helping them become better readers, writers, and critical thinkers.

 

When I first visited Chajul five years ago, the Saber Sin Límites library was in a much smaller building. As the library has grown, so has its positive influence within the community. Even on cloudy afternoons (which are most days in Chajul), light always manages to flood into the beautiful reading space of Saber Sin Límites.

 

LEGO building after weekly story hour

It was here that I spent hours getting to know the library’s users-reading with kids, letting them make fun of my drawing abilities, and talking about their LEGO creations. There is something so powerful about the energy of this space — the way in which kids have a freedom to study and play as they want while there is calm, so that those who need to can focus on their work.

 

Every afternoon, a little boy would smile and shyly giggle at me. He did not speak to me, but sometimes we would sit together and draw. When I asked him what colors I should use, he would shrug and hand me another colored pencil. This went on for weeks. Then one day I went to visit a small school called CEMIK.While I was sitting on a bench speaking with one of the teachers, Maria Teresa, this little boy came running across the schoolyard. He finally spoke to me, and proudly showed me his sewing project he and the other students were working on. I smiled and told Maria Teresa that I knew this young boy from the library. She told me that many of their students love going to the library when they are not in school. CEMIK works hard to provide a quality education to all of their students, but it’s challenged by only having one teacher and limited resources. Maria Teresa told me that it is wonderful for not only her students, but also her five daughters, to have access to so many books outside of school while they learn to read.

 

Jonathan visiting the library

Saber Sin Límites is more than a collection of books — it is a place for kids from around the community to come and be kids. In this well-lit, clean, and open space, children are able to learn and develop their own goals. In a community where many adults were not able to get an education beyond middle school, my interviews revealed a large number of young library users who have goals to continue their studies through university.

 

The desire for and expectation of an education is now an increasing standard in Chajul. This is something that has been developing quickly since I first started visiting in 2011. Wonderful examples include Jonathan who wants to be an engineer, and Wilson who wants to be a doctor. With Limitless Horizons Ixil’s support, these dreams truly can become reality.

 

My last day at the office with all the Limitless Horizons Ixil staff

It is a privilege to be part of an organization that I have looked up to over the past several years of visiting Chajul. It is a great honor to have the opportunity to work with, and learn from, the dedicated staff at Limitless Horizons Ixil. I am already looking forward to when I can return to Chajul to see the growth of the kids I got to know this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Katie

Katie is a junior at Stanford University and studying medical anthropology.

She first visited Chajul in 2011 as a high school student. She has a strong interest in learning about nonprofits and how they work with communities to implement change.

Katie spent six weeks as an intern with us in Chajul, conducting interviews with families, scholars, artisans, and library members. In addition, she helped jump start our Ixil-Spanish book translation project.

We are so grateful to Katie for her dedication and passion during her time as an intern!