Baylor literacy

Baylor students help children along Rio Grande connect to books

EAGLE PASS—Baylor University students gave children in the Pueblo Nuevo colonia near Eagle Pass a week to remember.

baylor literacynguyen400Baylor University student Hanh Nguyen and a child enjoy reading stories together during a spring break mission trip to the Eagle Pass area. (PHOTO/Caroline Bell)Neighborhood children outnumber staff about 15 to one at the Nick Carr Youth Center, a dimly lighted, corrugated-metal building with plain floors, stark walls and few frills. Without the Baylor students’ involvement, the children likely would have had to fend for themselves during a mostly unsupervised and unstructured spring break.

Promoting literacy

Instead, through a mission trip sponsored by Baylor Urban Missions, the student ministry team partnered with Literacy Connexus and engaged the children each day with stories and literacy activities, one-on-one attention and a lot of love.

“It’s great to send groups of Baylor kids to spend time with younger kids and to show them that reading is fun. It’s about empowering and encouraging them for the future,” said Derek Byrne, a sophomore from Kansas City, Mo.

baylor literacy stull400Baylor University student Dillon Stull helps build a house during a spring break mission trip to Eagle Pass. (PHOTO/Caroline Bell)Byrne recalled crafting a story with the children, starting with the question, “What do you like to do?” With a few simple prompts, the group effort resulted in a colorful tale of a birthday party on the moon.

“When you let kids know they’re important, they really open up,” Byrne said.

Reading fair

On Thursday, neighborhood residents flocked to the center for a family reading fair. Children paired with the Baylor students and listened to stories, picked out more than a dozen books to take home, and selected and decorated a bookcase for each family. Parents received new Bibles, health literacy books and books they could read together as a family.

More than 60 percent of low-income families in the United States live in homes with no books.

A high concentration of such families live in Pueblo Nuevo, one of more than 2,000 colonias along the Texas-Mexico border.

Books and bookcases

First Baptist Church in Abilene contributed books and bookcases that volunteers gave to families at the Nick Carr Center—gifts that may have a positive impact for years to come, mission trip leaders noted.

baylor literacy kids300Two children preview new books together at a family reading fair in Eagle Pass. (PHOTO/Caroline Bell)Throughout the week, teams of Baylor students read stories to children. Other groups worked on painting, construction and warehouse projects. One student accepted an invitation to share his testimony at a communitywide cookout sponsored by Primera Iglesia Bautista in Eagle Pass.

For Literacy Connexus, the spring break partnership with Baylor Urban Missions marked a return to the roots of its signature project, Books for the Border and Beyond. Executive Director Lester Meriwether piloted the project with his church, Western Hills Baptist in Fort Worth, on a short-term mission trip to Eagle Pass in 2008. Since then, churches and groups from around Texas have distributed about 1,500 starter libraries for families.

Meriwether’s daughter, Carole, a Truett Seminary student, served as the ministry associate for Baylor Urban Missions and headed the student team.

“My dad made the connections that added to our work all week,” she said.

Two contacts proved invaluable in connecting the Baylor students with ongoing, pressing needs of the Eagle Pass community. Bruce and Becky Ballou offered ministry opportunity through Mission: Border Hope, a nonprofit that serves the most impoverished residents of Texas’ most impoverished county.

During the spring break mission trip, students also had the opportunity to visit with a border patrol agent and a community nurse to learn more about life in the Eagle Pass area.

 baylor bookcase600Baylor University students (left to right) Sarah Rabke, Kaitlyn Carlson and Cody Spencer deliver a bookcase and books to a home in the Pueblo Nuevo colonia near Eagle Pass. (PHOTO/Caroline Bell)


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