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Riecken Foundation Libraries in Central America

I’m Phoebe Zimmermann with the VOA Special English Development Report.

Andrew Carnegie became rich in the American steel industry. But he spent much of his life giving away his money. One of his main interests was developing libraries in small towns. Andrew Carnegie died in nineteen nineteen.

Now a non-profit group in the United States has taken some of his ideas to Central America, especially Guatemala and Honduras. The Riecken Foundation has opened fifteen libraries in the past five years. Seven more are being built.

The goal is to help people explore new worlds. Not just through books, but also through computers connected to the Internet. The hope is to build as many as one thousand libraries throughout Central America.

The Riecken Foundation provides much of the cost of building the structures as well as paying for the books and computers. The group also trains committees to make the policies that govern how a library operates. Members of these library committees are not paid. They provide land for the building and pay for a full-time librarian. They also pay for water and electricity for the library.

Some of the people who work for the Riecken Foundation are former members of the Peace Corps. This government program sends Americans to help communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America. They work for two years or more with very little pay.

The foundation was created in two thousand by Allen Andersson, a businessman. He served in the Peace Corps in Honduras in the nineteen sixties. The very first employee, Meredith Bellows, served in Guatemala several years ago. Now she is a director of the foundation.

Miz Bellows worked in the small community of San Juan la Laguna. A story in G.W. Magazine in two thousand two described her work. Miz Bellows trained poor women who received small business loans. She told how she taught one woman to bake bread in ovens built from simple materials.

The library in the town is extremely small. But things are about to change. Meredith Bellows tells us that this week a bigger library will be completed in San Juan la Laguna.

Internet users can learn more about the Riecken Foundation at

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Gary Garriott. I’m Phoebe Zimmermann.