Our Founder, John Y. Keffer and Forum Foundation Vice President Janet Robinson, love books! From the very beginning of Forum Foundation’s Panama programs, John and Janet have endeavored to share their love of reading and inspire that same passion for learning and books in the hearts and minds of hundreds of student beneficiaries.
A wonderful memory Janet likes to share is of a school field trip to Panama City. While John and Janet visited Panama, they helped organize a group of students from Forum Academy to travel to Panama’s capital. Many of them had never been outside their communities or province. The students excitedly packed into a bus and headed to Panama City to attend the Feria International del Libro (Panama’s International Book Fair.
When they arrived after a long trip, the children poured out of the bus eager to explore the plethora of books on display at the fair. Curiosity spread through them like wildfire, as they enthusiastically searched the displays, happily thumbing through books filled with adventure and information.
John and Janet quietly observed, and then John decided to take action to make a difference. He reached into his pocket and gathered the students around him. Inspired by their excitement, John explained that he would give each student enough money to buy one book and take home. When she tells this story, Janet is always careful to share a sobering reminder. Many, if not all, of these students, had never owned a book of their own until this moment. The joy that invaded the students is hard to explain, but Janet still remembers how each of them grasped the books, holding on to them with all their might, all the way back home.
This moment, a seed of inspiration, has now grown into a beautiful garden. Sharing the love of books, learning, and reading now continues in force at the John Y. Keffer library located in the auditorium of the Jose De Los Reyes Vasquez High School in El Caimito, Cocle. The town where John started his work as a Peace Corps volunteer many years ago.
Since moving to the Community Center location in El Camitio, we have received hundreds of donated books. The John Y. Keffer Library has also donated books to several community schools in the mountains of Northern Cocle and also donated books to students and parents.
Every day, we experience the joy John and Janet felt when they helped students buy their first books at the book fair. We are thrilled to see students and parents come through the library, looking for resources and also looking for adventure.
Our stellar staff and tutors have also made use of these resources to help provide students with learning assistance. Just like a community library, Fundacion Academia Forum has also organized several activities to continue inspiring readers in the community, like reading circles. During these activities, students come to practice their reading by sharing stories and also listening to stories read aloud.
Access to resources is essential for supporting learning in the communities we serve. Some of the most requested items in the library are textbooks, from biology to accounting, chemistry to physics, students in school and university alike seek out these resources as references to help them reinforce and expand their learning. Our beneficiaries especially seek out English dictionaries. These are also among the most donated resources. In their mountain communities, these resources are simply not available. There is little to no internet or cell phone data signals, and often no electricity.
Books remain a fundamental and indispensable resource for learners to continue their education in these communities. We are certain that every book donated, is yet another seed of inspiration. Each of them contributes to making change sustainable. A passport to another world, a universe of information, books help us through, they inspire us to dream and give us the knowledge and skills we need to build a better future. Even simpler though, books are joy, they bring hope.