January 28, 2009
It has not taken long for the recession in the States to affect us here. As isolated as we may be, there are infinite ties that connect us. In the past couple of months, immigrant workers have started returning, citing lack of work or lower pay. The number of people who approach me wanting to practice their English has doubled since September. Having been here for a year and a half, people had stopped asking me why I was here, and what I was doing, but this too has begun again. People who were in the states and have returned are shocked to find a gringa in their midst. They are unaware of how long I have lived and worked here. Many assume I am only here for the day or week, to complete some small project.
But this is not the only effect. The community library I work with is founded and funded by the Riecken Foundation. As many are aware, the recession in the States has greatly affected non-profit foundations such as Riecken. Many are stuck without funding, have lost important donors, or find themselves without access to credit. Riecken appears to be stuck somewhere in this mess. We were provided a supplementary budget of at least Q 1,000 per month (roughly $130) to provide materials and organize activities within the library. Since October Riecken has been unable to provide us with this assistance. In addition, Hugo Bulux, our director is paid by the Riecken Foundation and not by the municipal government, which pays the salary of our librarians. Starting next week Hugo and all Riecken library directors will only be paid part time.
Needless to say, this is not good for the library´s prospects. Hugo is crucial to the library´s success. He is unusually motivated and works hard to increase the library´s reach in the community. Hugo is also the person with whom I work most closely. It would be a true loss for the library and the community to lose him, which may well happen, as Hugo cannot afford to live on only a part time salary.
This is not meant to undermine the work of the Riecken Foundation, which has been greatly appreciated here, but this situation highlights the importance of sustainable development. While Riecken undoubtedly has developed this community library into a hugely successful educational community project, it has not in its four years here, worked to make the library sustainable in the long run. The library still depends on Riecken´s monthly assistance and its payment of the director’s salary. All the work that went into the library could come undone if Riecken is forced to pull out. Of course this is not to say the community is not stepping up to the cause, the board of directors is making a request to the municipal government to pay the second half of Hugo’s salary until the end of the year or until Riecken is once again able to pay it. However, whether or not the mayor will agree to this is not clear, and it is very apparent that the municipal government is not keen on taking over the monthly costs of running the library. In which case, we are left to wonder, what will happen to this educational bastion if Riecken is forced to pull out?