Jorge Ospina: The Book Man of Antioquia, Colombia


I first heard about Jorge Ospina’s educational initiative, Libros Que Van Y Vienen (Books That Come And Go), from a Colombian friend who had donated some books for his cause.

When I expressed an interest in featuring Jorge’s story on this blog, my friend immediately sprang into action and set up a time for us to visit Jorge on his finca (farm), located in the hills just outside Rionegro, Colombia.

Upon meeting Jorge, I was immediately impressed by the warmth and kindness of spirit that radiated from his genuine smile. After a bit of small talk, I set up my camera and launched into a series of questions probing Jorge’s background and how he came to be known as ‘the bookman of Antioquia.”

Jorge Ospina placed the first small lending library for his initiative Libros Que Van Y Vienen (Books That Come and Go) on the road outside the gate to his farm located in the hills above Rionegro, Antioquia, Colombia. The fruit is free to take along with a book. Photo: Henry Lewis.

 

Each book box in Jorge Ospina’s initiative follows the same design and setup and presents clear instructions for using the unattended system. Note the lending library is dedicated to Jorge’s mother, Fanny Botero de Ospina, as written at the top of the box. Photo: Henry Lewis.

 

The honor system that’s part of Libros Que Van Y Vienen allows anyone to take a book but asks them to leave their personal information in order to instill a sense of personal responsibility along with free knowledge. Photo: Henry Lewis.

Jorge grew up in the small town of Sonsón in the southeastern area of Antioquia, a few hours south of the department capital of Medellín. Historically, the area has suffered from a lack of security, which in turn, deprived the locals of sustainable economic opportunities. During the worst periods, many locals became displaced and lost their homes and land.

In 2000, Jorge immigrated to the USA and started what would become a  successful cleaning business on the Gulf coast of Florida. Hard work, determination and an innate sense of pride and self-confidence, enabled Jorge to succeed. Despite the relative prosperity he gained from his own manual labor, Jorge never forgot the friends, family and neighbors he had left behind in northwest Colombia.

As a child, Jorge’s mother had instilled in him a sense of responsibility to help those who were less fortunate. For Jorge, his success meant that he now had the means to give back to his fellow Colombians.

Jorge’s philanthropy began by supplying much-needed medical equipment for communities in rural Antioquia. Each time he would travel from the USA to Colombia, he would bring wheelchairs and portable scooters. Specialty medical equipment such as this must be imported to Colombia and is therefore quite expensive, far out of reach of all but the minority middle and upper classes.

While Jorge’s medical philanthropy was a welcome surprise, I wanted to know about his love affair with books and initiative Libros Que Van Y Vienen.

The idea began to percolate when Jorge saw small lending libraries — book boxes — set up in the neighborhoods of cities in California and British Columbia, Canada. Seeing these easily accessible repositories of knowledge sparked a Eureka moment for Jorge. Such an objective fit neatly into Jorge’s notion that philanthropy shouldn’t simply be a handout to the poor, but instead it should be a way to enrich people’s minds and give them the knowledge and skills they could use to better their lives on their own.

Upon returning to Colombia, Jorge started fulfilling his mission by building and setting up the first of his small lending libraries beside the road in front of his farm. From that small start, he has expanded the initiative to many of the rural sectors that radiate out from the main towns in his native Eastern Antioquia. He works with high schools in these areas to spread the word of each library’s location and encourage more locals to read, as well as providing help with keeping the book boxes clean and orderly.

Map of the Antioquia department in Colombia with the Eastern region shown in red. It’s within the rural areas of this mountainous region that Jorge Ospina is establishing his network of small lending libraries known as Libros Que Van Y Vienen (Books That Come and Go).

In a touch which reveals this man’s tender heart, he dedicates each small lending library to the memory of his mother, Fanny Botero de Ospina.

Jorge Ospina in his workshop where he builds the wooden boxes that become part of the Libros Que Van Y Vienen system. Photo: Henry Lewis.

 

Jorge Ospina, along with community supporters, installing one of the small lending libraries in the Rosal district of Rionegro, Colombia. Photo Courtesy of Santiago Ospina.

 

Jorge Ospina standing beside the newly installed small lending library in the Rosal district of Rionegro, Colombia. Photo Courtesy of Santiago Ospina.

By providing easily accessible educational materials to people who live in rural areas, Libros Que Van Y Vienen hopes to change attitudes and lift spirits one mind at a time.

NOTE: This week I’ll be posting the video interview I did with Jorge entitled “Jorge Ospina: In His Own Words.”

peace~henry

Categories: Culture, Personal Development, TravelTags: , , , , , , ,

25 comments

  1. Thank you Henry for sharing this story of generosity and civic mindedness. Jorge Ospina is making a tangible difference close to home. What wonderful news. Happy New Year! Saludos, Rebecca

    Liked by 3 people

  2. In Toronto, I do see many small showcases in which to take or put a book.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ¡Gracias por esta historia de bienvenida, Henry!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That is a very nice man and story.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for sharing Henry: A lovely new year present that cheers one up in the belief that the world still has some generous people around. A brilliant encounter with a great man. Hugs to you. Kdr.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Henry, thanks for bringing Jorge’s initiative to our attention. “Gente que faz!” as they say in Brazil. He’s making a difference where it matters the most. May his joyful giving bear much fruit among the communities he serves ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Rosaliene,

      I think Jorge’s initiative will bear fruit since he’s getting entire communities involved, working with schools to encourage reading etc. Community building is much needed in areas where violence once ruled. Enjoy the new week,!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I have often seen the terrible ideas that the US inadvertently exports. This is so nice to see such a positive idea going beyond the borders. My mom upon arriving to the US was most impressed by libraries where you could borrow any book. She told me that in the Mexico of her time and place such places did not exist. We learned that we were lucky to have such access to free books and made use of them to this day, often. People take libraries for granted and don’t realize how lucky we are to have access to books whether in little libraries or in big libraries.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi PPJ,

      Thanks for sharing your personal story. I agree–libraries are very special places and provide invaluable learning resources. I too am happy to see a positive cultural export from the USA. Take care and enjoy your week!

      Like

  8. Lovely article, the world needs more Jorge Ospinas.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It is so heartening to find out that there are still people like Jorge. What a wonderful initiative! Thanks Henry for put his story for us who are far from there.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A very positive way of making both others and yourself happy. Good for you Jorge, and thank you Henry.

    Like

    • Hi Marios,

      After writing about the monster in Wash DC for the past 4 years, it feels very purifying to talk with and write about kind, thoughtful and generous human beings.

      Like

  11. That’s fantastic. He deserves a good citizenship award!

    Like

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