When we open our bank-breaking books, we are typically greeted with words in our own language and pictures from our own country. Developing nations like Haiti aren’t as lucky. They open their books to find a foreign language and foreign places. This is a problem alumna Bethy Butler seeks to correct with her nonprofit, Global Library Initiative.
“Our aim for Global Library Initiative as a nonprofit is to create diverse academic texts that reflect the readers and their environments,” Butler said.
The need for the nonprofit came from Butler’s experience teaching in Haiti.
“I needed to stock the classroom with books, but found it incredibly challenging to find texts that resembled anything close to the target culture, as well as being written in native languages,” Butler said. “The photos would have white people interspersed among the pages and the types of terrain would feature Canada or America or France instead of the Caribbean.”
Butler and her team are currently in the process of writing culturally appropriate books that meet the academic standards of the countries that will be using them. They are also documenting these cultures through photographs and incorporating them into the books.
“We will put together the storyboards and weave in photographs from Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica,” development director Kayleigh Mencia said. “Then [we will] be able to interchange the native languages so that students in those countries and others nearby can use those books to support learning.”
The team’s focus is on creating accurate content for these books.
“It is really important to me to insure that we are representing each and every culture with the utmost respect and integrity,” Mencia said.
Jacob Matthews, the team’s photographer, agreed.
“Having culturally relevant literature in schools around the world can allow for students to have the best education possible because their education will be personal and close to home,” Matthews said.
For Matthews, the photographs are about more than just documenting countries.
“I want to capture the stories and culture of the places I go in the most accurate way possible,” Matthews said. “I think there is so much more that unites us as humans than divides us, and because of that, I aim to take photos that connect us to other humans and cultures around the world.”
Butler and her team hope to expand the project in the next several years to include other regions and peoples.
“In 2018 we are hoping to expand with series in West Africa, First Nations and Native Americans, Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia,” Butler said.