Yancy Ochoa Gutierrez, Pathy Family Foundation (PFF) Community Leadership Fellow
Yancy Ochoa Gutierrez knows the hardships children face in El Salvador, where she spent her first seven years before immigrating to Canada. In particular, she is mindful of the country’s 20 per cent illiteracy rate and the lack of access to reading programs and books, especially in rural areas.
“There is a large disparity between what’s available for rural communities and what’s available in cities,” says Ms Ochoa Gutierrez, a graduate of the Queen’s Master of Industrial Relations program. “Many children in rural communities are not exposed to books. They don’t have the resources.”
To help address the problem, Ms Ochoa Gutierrez will spend a year in her home country developing a mobile library and arts program, as a fellow in the Queen’s PFF Community Leadership Program. She is a mother of five herself and will take her children, ranging in age from 18 months to 19 years, with her to rural Yucuaiquin, northeast of the city of San Miguel.
Ms Ochoa Gutierrez has connected with the director of an elementary school in the community and together they will set up the mobile library system. The books – reference materials, non-fiction, fiction, children’s stories and books in English – will be packed in Tupperware containers and transported by van to rural areas. Community members will be issued library cards.
In addition to the library program, Ms Ochoa Gutierrez will create writing contests and workshops, and work on a long-term plan, aiming to bring the mobile library program to other communities in the country. She leaves for El Salvador in August.
The PFF Community Leadership Program, established in 2011, is funded by the Pathy Family Foundation and administered by the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC). It offers Queen’s undergraduate or graduate students up to $30,000 for eight- to 12-month fellowships promoting social change in international locations. The program runs until 2014.