Luis Soriano Delivers Literacy By Donkey to Children in Colombia

Primary school teacher Luis Sariano believes education is valuable, and delivers learning resources to children across Colombia with his burromobile.

You’re probably familiar with bookmobiles - buses or vans filled with library books that serve communities with no libraries of their own - but how about a biblioburro?

Luis Soriano, a primary school teacher in Colombia, is putting a twist on the traditional mobile library in his native country, where children in remote villages have little access to schools or textbooks. Many of the children are illiterate, as are their parents. Because schools are often many miles away and the children are unable to complete their homework, they often drop out before they reach high school.

Soriano is hoping that he and his donkeys can change all that. Twice a week, he loads up two burros with 120 children’s books and educational resources and sets off on one of the animal’s backs. He typically travels for about four hours to reach his destination, where dozens of children are waiting eagerly to see Soriano’s selection of books.

Even though Soriano’s journey to each village is long, he takes the time at each location to share a lesson with the children, to help them with homework assignments, and to give them the opportunity to choose some books to borrow. Soriano’s travels rotate between 15 different communities, so his rare arrival is an occasion for joy and excitement for the village children.

“You can just see that the kids are excited when they see the biblioburro coming this way. It makes them happy that he continues to come,” Dairo Holguin, whose children are part of Soriano’s program, told CNN. “For us, his program complements what the children learn in school. The books they do not have access to ... they get from the biblioburro.”

Soriano has logged about 4,000 hours on donkeyback since beginning the program twenty years ago, and he’s endured a fractured leg and an encounter with bandits. But despite the difficulties of traveling the dangerous Colombian terrain, Soriano has no plans to stop the program anytime soon. He believes that the books he provide to the children can serve as a lifeline to raise them from poverty. In his eyes, the power of literature is life-changing.

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.”

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