Teaching Kids to Read from the Back of a Burro

Teacher uses donkeys to bring mobile library to children in rural Colombia.

Teacher uses donkeys to bring mobile library to children in rural Colombia.

To the unaccustomed eye, a man toting 120 books while riding a stubborn donkey would seem nothing short of a circus spectacle. But for hundreds of children in the rural villages of Colombia, Luis Soriano is far from a clown. He is a man with a mission to save rural children from illiteracy.

“There was a time when many people thought that I was going crazy,” said Soriano, a native of La Gloria, Colombia. Soriano, 38, is a primary school teacher who spends his free time operating a “biblioburro,” a mobile library on donkeys that offers reading education for hundreds of children living in what he describes as “abandoned regions” in the Colombian state of Magdalena.

“In [rural] regions, a child must walk or ride a donkey for up to 40 minutes to reach the closest schools,” Soriano said. “The children have very few opportunities to go to secondary school. …There are [few] teachers that would like to teach in the countryside.” To help bridge the learning gap, Soriano decided to personally bring books to the children.

Every Wednesday at dusk and every Saturday at dawn, Soriano leaves his wife and three young children to travel to select villages, up to four hours each way, aboard a donkey named Alfa. A second donkey, Beto, follows behind, toting additional books and a sitting blanket. They visit 15 villages on a rotating basis. At each village, some 40-50 youngsters await their chance to get homework help, learn to read or listen to any variety of tall tales, adventure stories and geography lessons Soriano has prepared.

Soriano has spent nearly 4,000 hours riding his donkeys since his program began in 1990, and he’s not traveled unscathed. In July 2008, he fractured his leg when he fell from one of the donkeys; in 2006, he was pounced on by bandits at a river crossing and tied to a tree when they found out he had no money. Despite these injuries, which left him with a limp, Soriano has no intention of slowing down.

In addition to the biblioburro program, he and his wife built the largest free library in Magdalena next to their home. The library has 4,200 books, most of which are donated, some from as far away as New York City. Soriano’s hope is that people will understand the power of reading and that communities can improve from being exposed to books and diverse ideas.

“For us teachers, it’s an educational triumph, and for the parents [it’s] a great satisfaction when a child learns how to read. That’s how a community changes and the child becomes a good citizen and a useful person,” Soriano said. “Literature is how we connect them with the world.”

Want to get involved? E-mail Luis Soriano at eldoctosoriano@hotmail.com

Video Source: http://cnn.com/video/?/video/living/2010/02/25/cnnheroes.soriano.profile.cnn

New Tech Tools Aid Those in Need

Hundreds of tech volunteers spurred to action by Haiti’s killer quake are adding a new dimension to disaster relief, developing new tools and services for first responders and the public in an unprecedented effort.

Techies are gathering in person and online to collaborate on the development of new systems to support rescuers and relief workers on the ground in Haiti, and to provide victims with ways to communicate their needs and connect with one another. Among the projects: new maps of the disaster areas, a central missing persons finder and a text-messaging system for calls for help.

Tim Schwartz, a 28-year-old artist and programmer in San Diego, quickly emailed “all the developers I’d ever worked with.” In a few hours, he and 10 others had built www.haitianquake.com, an online lost-and-found to help Haitians in and out of the country locate missing relatives. The database, which anyone can update, was online less than 24 hours after the quake struck with more than 6,000 entries. The New York Times, Miami Herald, CNN and others launched similar efforts. Two days later, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) had a similar tool running, PersonFinder.

Text-Messaging for Help

Another volunteer project forged in the quake’s aftermath is a cellphone text-messaging system that has helped the UN, Red Cross and other relief groups dispatch rescuers, food and water. Haitians needing help can send free text messages from phones on the nation’s Digicel and Comcel networks to the number 4636.

Chief executive Eric Rasmussen of InSTEDD, a small humanitarian nonprofit that helped develop it, said that UN search-and-rescue dispatchers were mobilizing to locate a woman eight months pregnant in distress with an infection who had sent an SOS message using the system.

New Maps

In another collaborative effort, the OpenStreetMap “crisis mapping” project, updates important information such as the location of new field hospitals and downed bridges onto post-quake satellite imagery that companies have made freely available. The digital cartography has helped aid workers speed food, water and medicine to where it’s needed most.

Organizing Workers

Internet social networks have helped volunteers organize intense work sessions. CrisisCamp drew some 400 people in six cities including Washington, London and Mountain View, C.A., over the weekend to meet-ups where they devised, built and helped refine tools. Among them: a basic Creole-English dictionary for the iPhone that was delivered to Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) on Monday night for its approval.

Johnson also is the coordinator for “We Have, We Need,” a project that was hatched in the CrisisCamp session and is about to be launched. It seeks to pair private-sector offers with needs identified by aid workers. For example, a Haitian Internet provider needs networking engineers to restore connectivity. Any volunteers willing to spend a few weeks in Port-au-Prince?

More CrisisCamps have been planned in Northern California, Miami, Atlanta, Washington, Atlanta, Brooklyn, N.Y., Seattle, Portland, O.R., and Los Angeles.

“It really is amazing the change in the way crisis response can be done now,” said Noel Dickover, a Washington, D.C.-based organizer of the CrisisCamp tech volunteer movement.

Source: http://www.macnewsworld.com

Man Wakes from Coma When Wife Tells Him He Became a Grandfather

After David Russell spent two weeks in a coma, he proved some things are worth waking up for.

After David Russell spent two weeks in a coma, he proved some things are worth waking up for.

David Russell was induced into a coma after he fell 12-feet from a barn roof and had to undergo a five-hour operation.  He was unable to come out of the coma after the surgery. Doctors informed Helen Russell that if her husband did wake up, he would probably have serious brain damage. But when he heard the words, “Come on granddad, you have got to wake up now,” Russell stirred in his hospital bed and opened his eyes at his wife.

Against all odds, Russell is making a full recovery – after hearing about the new addition to the family. “He’s incredibly proud and thrilled to be a grandfather,” Helen Russell said.

Source: http://www.foxnews.com

Thought for the Day

“Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.”
-Audrey Hepburn

Peter Pan

“Now, think of the happiest things. It’s the same as having wings.”

Today’s date in history marks the monumental event of the release of the film Peter Pan. In Edwardian London in the neighborhood of Bloomsbury, George and Mary Darling’s three children are visited in the nursery by a magical boy named Peter Pan. Peter teaches them to fly with the help of his pixie friend, Tinker Bell, and takes them with him to the island of Never Land.

At the end of the film, we look out of the Darling’s window, along with the children’s parents, and see what appears to be a pirate ship in the clouds. Mr. Darling, recognizes it from his own childhood, as it breaks up into clouds itself.

Peter Pan is a 1953 American animated film  produced by Walt Disney and based on the play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up by J.M. Barrie.  It is the fourteenth film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series  and was originally released on February 5, 1953 by RKO Pictures.

“Second star to the right and straight on till morning.”