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Libraries Without Borders partnered with BUILD, a student-led organization at Tufts University that promotes sustainable development in Latin America. In June 2017, we traveled to Ecuador to launch a pilot program in Coaque, a coastal town that was devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the country in 2016.
In April 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador, killing 654 people and injuring over 12,000. In the aftermath of the quake, nearly 30,000 people were left homeless. Coastal towns bore the brunt of this damage, which was particularly debilitating for communities living in or near Manta, Portoviejo and Pedernales.
For the people of Coaque, the earthquake served to shed light on the isolation and chronic neglect that had long-plagued their communities and contributed to their marginalization. It was a devastating blow to communities that had been historically under-resourced, resulting in the destruction of homes, churches, community centers, hospitals and schools.
Despite efforts to rebuild after the disaster, life had yet to return to normal in Coaque even after a year had passed. The was a particularly damning reality for children, many of whom had not returned to school and had no alternatives to continue their educations.
Recognizing their need, BUILD contacted Libraries Without Borders to establish a digital library program in Coaque, which would provide students and parents with access to educational resources to foster informal learning opportunities.
In collaboration with BUILD and Avanti (a local Ecuadorian NGO), Libraries Without Borders installed digital libraries at two community centers in Coaque. Through this partnership, we were able to curate content customized to meet the needs of local residents. The digital libraries featured educational and cultural materials in Spanish, including resources to promote early learning and numeracy, as well as digital literacy tools and entrepreneurial guides for community members interested in promoting tourism to the region. In addition to creating the digital libraries, we also designed and outfitted the classroom spaces in which the program operated. Thus, we ensured that each community center had Chromebooks, headphones, chargers and other electronic equipment needed to successfully run the program. We also trained facilitators from the community on troubleshooting the technical equipment, and best practices for engaging audiences and leveraging the library’s resources.