A garbage man created a community library in his own home and donates books to children, believing that education can break the cycle of poverty.
Jose Alberto Gutierrez, 55, a garbage man who lives in Bogota, Colombia, has picked up discarded books from the trash that are still in good condition and has added them to a makeshift library in his home for the last 20 years.
The “lord of books,” as locals refer to him, has rescued about 25,000 books from the trash—the last time Jose counted. The books occupy the entire ground floor of his house, stacked up the great walls.
When Gutierrez began his job as a garbage truck driver for Bogota’s waste management company years ago, he was struck by the potential of so many discarded books.
“The first book I found was Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, and that little book ignited the flame and [set in motion this] ball that has never stopped rolling,” Gutierrez said in the AJ+ video.
The whole endeavor is now a community library: “La Fuerza de las Palabras”—”The Strength of Words” in Spanish. His family helps run the project, coordinating pickups, doing the administrative work, and organizing events.
In fact, La Fuerza de las Palabras has donated reading materials to 235 different schools and communities across Colombia.
“The whole value of what we do lies in helping kids start reading,” Gutiérrez told Al Jazeera.
Gutierrez who lived in the La Nueva Gloria barrio, a low-income neighborhood in southern Bogota said the children there have to start working at an early age because don’t have a place to study as well as study materials.
He believes getting an education can help break the cycle of poverty.
Gutierrez has been profiled by local newspapers and invited to book fairs. Now an old, donated ambulance has been turned into a bookmobile. They are making plans to construct a brick-and-mortar library.