Engineers Without Borders at Boston University

Young engineers making their contribution to change



The Hummingbird House: Library-Dining Room

By Charles Jahnke

[Posted for Luis Chávez Rodríguez, EWB-BU’s primary contact for Chirimoto and the founder of The-Chirimoto-Amazon project: The Hummingbird House]

This project develops the idea of a “Library-dining room,” aimed at joining bibliographical information—a form of intellectual nourishment—and food—a form of corporal nourishment—in the context of rural communities where these two elements are generally dissociated.

This pilot program is possible thanks to the development of the first operational rural library in Chirimoto within the Department of Amazonas, housed in the community’s Cultural Center: “The Hummingbird House.”  In this area, and in the greater part of Northeastern Peru, where illiteracy rates border on 37% of the population, agricultural development tends to favor the monoculture farming of coffee, which results in caloric deficiency, particularly among infants in the region, with the consequent undernourishment of the area’s children, despite its rich, arable land and its biodiversity.

The idea for the Library-Dining Room, a place as much for reading as for physical nourishment, is a concept that from its onset has aimed to satisfy two vital needs of human beings: physical and intellectual sustenance. The Library-Dining Room’s activities are meant to be developed, especially in contexts where there is a “nutritional” deficiency of one or other, if not of both at the same time, places where poverty translates into illiteracy and undernourishment. In the Library-Dining Room of Chirimoto, the activities that are carried out depend upon the needs of its users; they may start off with developmental stages of learning, focusing on reading and writing and adult literacy, along with activities to reinforce the elementary education that takes place in the community’s public school. All activities place an emphasis upon knowledge related to agriculture and corporal nourishment in order to promote healthy living. Learning will meet practice in the library-dining room, with the preparation of nutritious food that the readers will consume before or after their intellectual practices, depending upon the specific circumstances. Some of basic foods are obtained from the Cultural Center’s student garden, the plot of land where the schoolchildren integrate what they have learned from their books or from the farmers in their community, who in this way contribute to the development of the program.

This program is complemented with the conception of an “Oral library”, where male and female farmers transmit their knowledge to the younger generations, giving continuity to their oral tradition, which unfortunately is being lost in these regions. In much the same way, we are implementing a mobile library program based on the same pedagogical premises of the Library-dining room, in order to bring together books and the culture of efficient agricultural and nutritional practices in other local communities like Milpuc, Limabamba and Totora in Rodriguez de Mendoza province.

Luis Chávez Rodríguez

Founder of  “Centro Cultural La casa del colibrí, Proyecto Chirimoto-Amazonas.”

(The-Chirimoto-Amazon project: The Hummingbird House.)

5 Responses so far

[…] All this great work was initiated by Luis Chávez Rodríguez, a native of Chirimoto, and who has taught courses at Boston University and the University of Massachusetts at Boston. Chávez Rodríguez has been developing La Casa del Colibrí with help from the Boston University chapter of Engineers without Borders. […]

Would Mr. Rodriguez like donations to this project? If so, how can donations be made? It seems like a tremendous thing, and it sounded in the Bostonia article like he was funding it all himself. Please let me know at Thanks!

Some say that the Chirimoto people are part Viking. Interesting to observe that a couple of the kids have blonde hair & fair skin.

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