We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give — Winston Churchill
I apologize for missing the Good People post last week, but I hope that this week’s selections will make up for my temporary lapse. As you all know, every Wednesday, I dedicate my morning post to good people who are doing good things either for humanitarian causes, the environment or the animal kingdom. Sometimes they are people or organizations that are making huge differences, such as Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation. Other times, they are ordinary people like you and I who have simply found ways to make a difference, to leave the world just a little better for their having been in it. Today’s selections are all people who care about others enough to give of themselves. Read on …
Luis Soriano Bohorquez is known as the Biblioburro, which translates to English as ‘donkey library’. Luis is a teacher/librarian at a school called La Gloria, in a poor and violent community in the mountains of Colombia. When he first began his teaching career, nearly 30 years ago, he realized that many children lived too far from any school and did not have access to education, nor even to books. Luis decided to do something about that!
“In [rural] regions, a child must walk or ride a donkey for up to 40 minutes to reach the closest schools. The children have very few opportunities to go to secondary school. …There are [few] teachers that would like to teach in the countryside. I saw two unemployed donkeys at home and had the idea [to use] them in my biblioburro project because they can carry a heavy load. I put the books on their backs in saddles and they became my work tools.”
The donkeys are named Alfa and Beto … alfabeto is Spanish for ‘alphabet’. When Luis goes to the remote villages, he brings books to the children, opening up a whole new world for them, but he also reads to them, and helps teach them to read.
For nearly 20 years of his life, Luis has gone into the villages, and not without peril! In 2006, he was set upon by banditos who, miffed at finding Luis carried no money, tied him to a tree. But the worst was yet to come. In 2008, Luis took a tumble from his donkey and broke his leg. That accident eventually resulted in the loss of Luis’ leg a few years later, and an artificial prosthesis now allows him to continue with his good works. When Luis’ first prosthesis wore out in 2016, some of his loyal supporters started a GoFundMe page and collected enough to help Luis obtain a new leg!
A visit to Luis’ Facebook page shows that Luis’ work continues, and I was interested to read that just last October, there was a rash of donkey thefts in his area, and he needed to build suitable protection for Alfa and Beto! The thieves were using donkey and horse hides for leather.
Every Wednesday at dusk and every Saturday at dawn, Soriano leaves his wife and three young children to travel to select villages — up to four hours each way — riding on Alfa, with Beto following behind, toting additional books and a sitting blanket. They visit 15 villages on a rotating basis, and in all, visit some 4,000 children!
In 2011, Carlos Rendón Zipagauta produced a documentary about Luis for PBS aptly titled Biblioburro: The Donkey Library. At least two children’s books are based on Luis’ story …
Luis and his wife also collect donations for such things as water, food, blankets and Christmas gifts for the poor families in the communities served by Biblioburro. They also built the largest free library in Magdalena next to their home. The library has 4,200 books, most of which are donated — some from as far away as New York City. They also run a small community restaurant.
I think Luis is one awesome humanitarian, dedicated to making the world a little better, one child, one book at a time. If you would like to read a bit more about Luis and his project, below are a few links:
Meet Dobri Dobrev, nicknamed “The Saint of Bailovo.” Dobri is from a small village, Bailovo, in Bulgaria, more than 15 miles outside the country’s capital, Sofia. For decades, Dobri walked every day, rain or shine, into the city of Sofia … to beg.
With his small cup in hand, he begs for lev (Bulgarian currency), euros, dollars … whatever he can get. So now, you are asking yourself how that qualifies him as a ‘good person doing good things’, right? Well, Dobri Dobrev does not ask for himself. Every single lev he collects is donated to orphanages, churches and monasteries. Dobri is what is known as an ascetic, or one whose lifestyle is characterized by abstinence from material pleasures. In fact, one of the churches to which he had given money offered their assistance for the purchase of some furniture and other essentials to show their gratitude, but Dobri refused the offer.Dobri is deaf, having lost his hearing during WWII when his village was bombed and one bomb landed near him, but it doesn’t stop him from dedicating his silent life to helping others. Sadly, I wish I had written this piece a month ago, for Dobri died on February 13th, three weeks ago yesterday. R.I.P. Dobri Debrov.
Finally, I would like to shine a small spotlight on my own ‘good person’, daughter Chris. She puts up with me, for one thing, and I have been rather a bear the past few months, with the stress of the vision loss, surgeries, and Donald Trump! But in addition to working 60-hour weeks as an RN, she just finished earning her degree in Computer Science, and she is in a regional Caledonian Society Pipes and Drums band, which takes her out of town many weekends throughout the year. Yet she still always finds time for Miss Goose and me, for family time, and never, ever loses her temper with either of us. But to ice the cake, she is now planning to begin volunteering whatever time she can to a very worthy cause, a group that “works for safe, respectful K-12 schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” They provide training to teachers and a variety of social venues for LGBT students to help promote understanding and compassion. Thank you, Chris, for being such a wonderful humanitarian … I am proud of you!