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Groundbreaking at Guayabo

The library that wants to be built & is being built! Sunlight and shadow played across the morning landscape of Colonia de Guayabo as ground was broken for Curt Thomas Sheck Community Library on Saturday morning, Nov. 11, 2006.


From daylight, a dozen volunteers worked to cut the grass on the plaza where the groundbreaking ceremony would take place. By 7:30 am, women were busy preparing food and putting flowers in the Community Building where lunch would be served. Excited, beautiful children began arriving by foot, colorfully dressed for typical dances they would perform.


A cadre of volunteers joined Edwin Guillen, the contractor, and Virgil Strange, Curt Thomas Sheck Foundation baord member and builder extraordinaire, to stake out the building’s perimeter and fix the building’s exact center, important for a Cabécar indigenous ritual during the ceremony. By 10 am, more than 125 people had gathered. Students brought in the Costa Rican flag and led the national anthem and the anthem for Turrialba, the county where Guayabo is located.


Local tour guide and former member of the Guayabo Development Association Gerardo Montoya, master of ceremonies, gave the welcome and a synopsis of the history of the connection between this village and the Curt Thomas Sheck Foundation; Padre Alfonso gave a blessing. Virginia Arias Marín, president of the Guayabo Development Association, spoke eloquently about the commitment of the community to see that this library is built. She remembered that students in the Guayabo primary school when the Curt Thomas Sheck Foundation made its first donation of books and sports equipment in 1984 are now parents whose children will use this library.


Ree Sheck, president of the Curt Thomas Sheck Foundation, recognized the core of dedicated, hardworking local people who have served on the library committee for the two years of ups and downs working toward this day and the vision of how this education center will bring new opportunities to adults, children, and young people. She spoke of the ever-growing family of Friends of Guayabo who are helping raise these walls, thatch the conical roof, and put books on the shelves—friends from Costa Rica, the United States and Europe.


Virgil Strange spoke to the community on behalf of the Strange family, affirming their commitment to the people of Guayabo.


Archaeologist Dr. Luis Hurtado shared a Cabécar creation myth and then four children carried in the center post they had painted, depicting the biodiversity of this tropical place as well as ancient symbols found in Guayabo National Monument, the nearby archaeological site. The shovel was passed around so that many could participate in digging the hole for the post. Several placed small stones symbolizing masculine and feminine energies in the hole before planting the post. There were oohs and ahs over the artwork and lots of laughter—as some proved less adept at shoveling than others.


The dance group from the primary school captivated all with their typical dances: the girls twirling in their white blouses and colorful skirts; the boys in white shirts, dark pants and white hats—moustaches painted on their young faces to represent the campesino, the farmer.


A ritual followed, where eight people, in a silent meditation, faced the east and then the west at the points of the octagonal building. Afterward everyone was invited to begin digging the trench for the foundation. Following a delicious lunch served by the community in a flower-bedecked Community Building, shoveling and visiting continued until the afternoon rains began in earnest, baptizing the site. A glorious day.


Browse the photos of the Curt Thomas Sheck Community library construction.

Pouring a foundation for the future

Some 28 people pitched in on Jan. 14, 2007, to pour the foundation for the library and distance-learning center at Colonia de Guayabo. No big truck arrived to pour the concrete down a chute from the innards of a revolving container.


Instead, willing hands shoveled sand, rock and cement into buckets that other hands lifted and emptied into a hand mixer. Adults, young people and even children formed a wheelbarrow line to take the mixed concrete over the grass and up the ramp to dump it in place. Hour after hour people worked, under a hot sun, then clouds, then rain (it rained three times— one serious downpour). The two side sections came first, with the last wheelbarrow going up the ramp to complete the center section about 4:30 pm. Virgil and Jim Strange, an uncle and cousin of Curt Sheck, came from Denton, Texas, to work alongside the people of Guayabo; a volunteer came from CATIE (the higher education and research center in Turrialba that focuses on agriculture, environment and natural resource management); two young people from Siquierres, down the slope toward the Caribbean, took time off from volunteer work at Guayabo National Monument to help out; the Peace Corps volunteer in Guayabo shoveled and carted concrete; and Ree Sheck, Curt’s mother was there. Some workers took short breaks to eat the lunches they had brought. Others didn’t eat at all. In a brief ceremony in early afternoon, a box containing the names of donors from the United States, Canada, Costa Rica and Switzerland as well as the names of volunteers and residents of Guayabo was placed in the foundation to the left of the front entrance. Slips of paper recognizing all future volunteers and donors are also in that box, which helps form the roots of this project and this building.


It was a day of hard work and camaraderie — jokes, laughter and stories shared: making memories as well as a building, celebrating commitment to a better future.

Courses at the library

Activity at the Curt Thomas Sheck Community Library increased exponentially in  2012 when 21 students and three professors from the University of Costa Rica in San José a offered training and programs to the people of the area.


Before university students can graduate, they must put in hours of community service through a program called University Community Work (TCU for its Spanish acronym). Our library was chosen for a year-long program. Desks were jammed one Saturday a month for morning and afternoon computer classes, with classes spilling over in the nearby community building in English, mathematics, reading and microbusinesses. More than 75 men, women and children signed up for classes.


One group helped train community volunteers who keep the library running, in such topics as attention to the public, operation of the library database (more than 1,900 cataloged books so far) and development of procedural policies for lending books and use of computers.

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