It takes a village to build a library

Story highlights

  • Villagers in Guyana work together to build a library with donated books, computers
  • Part of a communal dream, some painted, while others shelved donated books
  • The Bible was the only book many villagers had ever seen or touched before the new library
  • If you want to donate books, go to village's Facebook page or to Better World Books
Nine-year old Kayla Hope loves fairy tales, especially "Cinderella."
"It's got a lot of rats!" she giggles, burying her face in her hands. They're her favorite part.
Until now, she's never read a book.
She would have had to walk two miles to the closest library before. Now she will won't have to make that long trek, because her village in Guyana built a community library.
"It's something that they wanted for so many years, and they just had no idea how to start," said Matt Cusimano, a Peace Corps volunteer and a teacher at the primary school in Sandvoort, a village of nearly 200 people.
Cusimano has taken on the challenge of creating a library with the villagers. Since starting, he's been working with few resources. Many students are roughly three years behind their expected reading level.
"There's no such thing as literature or fun reads or junior novels or any of those sorts of things," Cusimano said. "They are growing up in an education system of chalk and talk -- where the teacher writes something on the chalkboard and talks about it. They write something on the board (and) the students copy it. There's nothing analytical about it. There's no such thing as differentiated learning."
Cusimano, 25, said it made sense when the school's headmaster approached him with the idea for a communal library.
"Guyana is a performance-based culture, which makes it one of the more appropriate places in this region for a library. ... We are limiting our children's abilities through 'chalk-and-talk' methods of teaching. That's why I was comfortable taking on a library project," Cusimano said.
With a budget of roughly $5,000, the community agreed to front nearly 30% of the costs. But most villagers, Cusimano said, can barely afford toothpaste.
"They're doing it with donated labor and donated space because they can