Jesús de Santiago is the President of Books for Life, Nicaragua.
After the first municipal library in Tisma was established, we had the good fortune of meeting Jesús de Santiago and his wife Doribel Isabel Castro Castillo. Mr. Santiago is a well-known businessman in Nicaragua, as he is president of the Hispamer publishing company and the bookstores by the same name in Nicaragua.
Mr. Santiago offered his services for this cause, and became the president of Books for Life in Nicaragua. Hispamer provides the infrastructure for Books for Life activities, including accounting, office space, communications, transportation and other needs. Two fulltime people assist Mr. Santiago in visiting the libraries on a regular basis, maintaining communications, developing educational materials and training the librarians.
Moved by how Trees for Life has been able to inspire local initiatives in various countries, Ken and Carole Baker of Huntington, Indiana approached us to help start a program in Tisma, Nicaragua. For Carole’s story of our initial trip to Tisma, please see: http://www.treesforlife.org/formula-for-empowerment
As a result of that trip, a group of women in Tisma established a preschool for street children. This was a self-help initiative. Their project, in turn, inspired the mayor of Tisma, who requested us to help establish a library in their town. The Tisma municipality provided part of the funding, and Trees for Life supporters provided the other part.
The local people greatly appreciated this library, and soon four other mayors in the Masaya area made similar requests. As we helped them establish libraries, a load of requests came from a number of other municipalities. In the process, the children’s libraries evolved into “community learning centers” in which the number and types of books were expanded to include everyone in the community, and computers and other educational tools were added to the mix. Thus, the significance and popularity of these libraries started to grow.
As of the end of October 2009, Books for Life has helped establish or strengthen 37 municipal libraries in Nicaragua. By the end of December 2009, there were 49 libraries already established and with three additional libraries due to be launched in early 2010.
We have received feedback that people are very conscious of the importance of these libraries. The community members and the municipal administration are raising their portion of the funds, even though it requires great sacrifice for them. People are actively using the libraries—a new resource that either did not exist for them until now or, if it existed, was very meager. Readership is increasing steadily, and the word is spreading very fast. Several municipalities are even requesting multiple libraries to serve their populations.
Field Partner Staff