Located on the western coast of Mexico, Yelapa is a unique and interesting community that has slowly developed in relative isolation, primarily because the main way to reach Yelapa is by a 45 minute boat ride from Puerto Vallarta. Even though it is located on the mainland, and so close to a city, Yelapa did not even have electricity until 2001. Because of this difficulty of access, there are no cars in Yelapa – pretty much everyone walks. It is a beautiful location, between the jungle, mountains and ocean, and has developed as a relaxed, low-key, tropical vacation spot.
Because of this physical isolation, rugged environment, and difficulty of funding, academics at the primary level have not historically been as emphasized as they could be. So, in cooperation with the teachers at Juan de la Berrera, we renovated an empty classroom, built sturdy bookcases, imported our selection of library-bound books, promoted volunteer help, and created something very special. The children have responded with excitement and our initial expectations were greatly exceeded. As an example of the difference we are making, a quarter of the student population attended weekly reading sessions held during the summer (when school was not even in session)!
Very few of these children have access to computers at home. We will be gradually introducing computers as tools into Biblioteca Yelapa, but it is our belief that the rapid introduction of technology will not provide the same long-term learning results as an initial focus on reading, then developing programs and activities of interest to the students, and eventually working to integrate more tools into their academic curriculum.
Volunteers have been absolutely critical to our success. Regardless of their Spanish language fluency, volunteers have provided their time, and freely share their love of education and reading, along with their dedication to improving the literacy of Yelapa children. We have local residents who are regular volunteers, along with tourist visitors who also share our passion for books.