Reading Village is a non-profit organization whose mission is to eradicate illiteracy in impoverished communities and empower youth to lead their communities out of poverty. Each year, volunteer travelers have an opportunity to take a Learning Journey into rural Guatemala and to participate hands-on in this transformational work. We are pleased to share this guest post submitted by Kassia Binkowski, the Director of Development and Communications of Reading Village.

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In this day and age, there is no shortage of opportunities to do good. Buy these shoes and we’ll send a pair abroad, purchase fair trade goods and the world will be better, donate to this or that charity and we promise you’ll make a difference. Drill a well, read a book, donate food, build a clinic, save a life. The opportunities are as good as they are endless.

But how often do you get to share a tortilla with the woman whose life you’ve changed? To read a book with the scholar in whose education you’ve invested?

Reading Village - Bringing Literacy to Rural Guatemala

For the past six years, Reading Village has been working to refine an effective model of development that positions communities to thrive under their own resources and creativity. Through education and leadership development, the organization empowers youth to eradicate illiteracy and interrupt the cycle of poverty in their indigenous communities. Time and time again, education is considered to be one of the most effective ways to improve the quality of life in developing countries, and Reading Village’s work is no exception. Where fewer than 10% of students finish high school, our scholars are graduating. Where lack of access to books is the first barrier to literacy, these teens are building libraries that will long outlast our presence.

As the Director of Development and Communications for this small non-profit organization, I was hired to translate these results into donor dollars. The vast majority of my time is spent creating electronic and print materials that convey the impact of our programs to prospective funders who have never left the security of this comfortable life. But the bottom line is: you have to see it to believe it.

That’s why Reading Village leads semi-annual Learning Journeys into rural Guatemala. Bringing together international philanthropists, local staff, and student scholars, the organization has developed a thought provoking experience for international travelers. From exploring colonial towns and Mayan ruins, to contemplating the impact of urbanization and education on rural indigenous communities, the trip has been designed to actively engage current and prospective funders in a conversation about equity, opportunity, and development.

Reading Village - Celebrating Our Learning Journey

For five days our travelers dive full-tilt, whole-heart into our literacy work. With eyes wide open they ride buses, share meals, read stories, meet scholars, greet families, and express gratitude. For five days we ask them to think, feel, act, create, inspire, and be inspired, only to start again at the beginning and think some more. The days are full, the sights hard, the experience thought provoking, and the travel impassioned.

Cultivating donors, engaging action, and inspiring compassion, the Learning Journeys have been designed to be an intense and productive experience. Your heart is thrown wide open, your mind is challenged to understand all we see, and your body endures all the squatting and walking and standing and waiting that is life in Guatemala. In this way, Reading Village aims to close the gap between the have’s and have-nots, between us and them, you and me. When you break open a book and look into the eyes of these kids, I think you’ll agree with me that we’re not so different after all.

Reading Village - Our Scholars

It’s not every day that you get to meet the person whose life you’ve changed; now’s your chance. Join us November 2-9, 2013 for the trip of a lifetime. Registration is open now and spots are first come first serve. Visit our website or email us at learningjourney@readingvillage.org to learn more. Are you ready for the adventure?

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