A Library for a Peruvian Village

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Andrea Cornejo ’10 took leave this semester to finish the project she began in Peru this summer: building and implementing a library in a small village after the disaster of the 2007 earthquake.

Cornejo has been working in the underdeveloped village of Viña Vieja for months, collaborating with four faculty members of the University of San Marcos to plan and execute ideas. The project is funded by Partners of the Americas.

“It’s not just about bringing books,” Cornejo said. “But also about bringing a playful incentive, enough for kids to want to read, to want to learn.”

“The coordinating project feels there would be little purpose in implementing a library without this basic reading program–especially in a community where reading as a common habit is not usual.”

Viña Vieja is the most underdeveloped village of the El Carmen district in Chincha. According to Cornejo, the school “had not had a library except for the pile of books accumulated in the principal’s main office.”

This meant that it would take some work to integrate the library into the community. Along with the literacy program, the project must train students and faculty to sustain the library after they have left. And the details go on and on.

Cornejo only begins to list all them before she stops herself: “I began to realize that things such as benchmarking tests…were critical to see what progress was made in terms of basic reading skills.” But, she says, tests “legitimized by the Ministry of Education in Peru have taken awhile to get a hold of,” she said. “And many more details like that, that I hadn’t thought through.”

She had only planned to stay for the summer, but realized as they progressed that she had to stay to see it through.

“I had no idea that it was so complex.” But despite its difficulty, she is devoted to the cause.

“I rose up to the challenge, most especially because I am always looking to make a change in my country, Peru.”

Cornejo has even felt obligated to decline the Campus Life Representative position on Student Council this fall to complete her project.

“This was a lifetime chance. It was my passion,” she said. “And I had to see it through.”

For now, Cornejo and the team of coordinators are currently compiling a list of books, prices, and editorials to supply the library. But she derives much enjoyment from her work.

“I am loving it. I really believe it’s an amazing opportunity.”

For more information about the project, please visit vinaviejaproject.org.


  1. This project was also made possible by a Swarthmore Foundation Grant, conferred in late spring during the grant round which supports projects undertaken in the summer. The Swarthmore Foundation is currently accepting applications for projects to be undertaken during the Fall semester and Fall Break. All members of the College community: students, faculty and staff may be considered for grants to support projects of social change. Applications and guidelines are available at: http://www.swarthmore.edu/x16156.xml, and are due on September 19.

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