¡Muchas gracias!

We just donated $750 in profits to the Jardin de Amor school in Santa Maria de Jesus near Antigua, Guatemala. Muchas gracias for everyone’s support in 2011 and we look forward to raising more money for Julio’s school in 2012!

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¡Hola! We sold some books this summer!

Buenos dias everyone! We sold a remarkable 50 books in June, July and August. Muchas gracias readers! Although sales dropped significantly in July and August (70% and %30 respectively), we still managed to raise $375 for Jardin de Amor school in Santa Maria de Jesus, which is very gratifying.

We’re confident that with the weather turning cooler and kids (and parents) doing more reading that our sales will increase going into the fall. In fact, we’ve already sold four books this month on Amazon (three Kindle, one paperback), so we’re already over 50% of last month’s sales.

Work continues on Joey the Bunny Gives Back and on Spanish and Dutch versions of Joey the Bunny Gets Lost. Publication of Joey the Bunny Gives Back has been moving slowly––due to vacations and the rigors of family life––but we’re sure it will go on sale in time for the holiday season.

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¡Muchas gracias St. Leo’s!

We’d like to thank the generous parishioners of St. Leo Catholic Church in Omaha for supporting Jardin de Amor and Big Bunny Workshop during their Vacation Bible School last week! Thanks to you, we sold 18 books and 15 T-shirts, raising $274.65 in profit for the school in Guatemala! We also received $57.93 in donations to Jardin de Amor. ¡Muchas gracias for buying our books and T-shirts, and for kind donations!

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We’re an Amazon Best-Seller!

We’ve cracked the top 50 best-selling children’s Kindle books in the “baby-3” category! In just five months! See our product page here. This is awesome news and will surely make the children at Jardin de Amor in Santa Maria de Jesus very, very happy! ¡Muchas gracias! a todos!

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Joey and the Kids are Stars!

Yesterday our local National Public Radio affiliate, KIOS, did a wonderful segment on Joey the Bunny Gets Lost and on Jardin de Amor. Joey and the kids are stars! Listen to the segment here; KIOS also wrote a nice a piece on their website here. We’d like to thank Katie Knapp-Schubert, KIOS news director, for her time and effort in giving our project some much-needed attention! ¡Muchas gracias! Katie!

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MINI-PREVIEW: “Joey the Bunny Gives Back”

Here’s a pilot sketch of Joey selling carrots to help build a school for bunnies for our next book, Joey the Bunny Gives Back. Scheduled to be released on May 30 in paperback, the book tells the story of what happens when little Joey the Bunny finds out that there are other bunnies who’d like to go to school, but can’t because they have no school to go to.

Bookmark this page and watch for other previews! ¡Muchas gracias!

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Joey’s at the Bookworm!

We’re thrilled to report that Joey the Bunny Gets Lost is now being carried by the Bookworm at Countryside Village in Omaha! Muchas gracias to Ellen Scott (in photo below), children’s books manager, for agreeing to carry the book and for her enthusiasm for the project. We’ll be scheduling a reading and book signing for June. Hooray for the Bookworm! Joey is so jazzed about being in such a cool bookstore!

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Friday’s Book Sale Made Joey a Happy Bunny!

At the Hot Shops near downtown Omaha last Friday I had the chance to sell my first printed copies of Joey the Bunny Gets Lost. Lynda Tygart, an Omaha-based photographer extraordinaire, bought the first copy and asked that I sign it. It was quite an honor! Thanks, Lynda!

In all, I sold five books that night earning Project Harmony $8 and our charity in Guatemala $40. Most importantly, I had the chance to talk to some wonderful people about the need to help educate that Guatemala’s children and how Julio’s Jardin de Amor is accomplishing miracles in the tiny village of Santa Maria de Jesus. It was a delightful evening. Muchas gracias, everyone!

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A “Garden of Love” Takes Root Amid Extreme Poverty

The hills around the city of La Antigua, Guatemala are dotted with small villages, or pueblos, populated by indigenous people who, despite living in extreme poverty, are rich in spirit. Most families work in nearby fields tending crops grown by others––earning a few dollars per day––while other families eke out a living by growing their own fruits and vegetables, selling them in local markets, or working in town for one of the few manufacturers in the area. In addition to working long hours, they must wash their clothing by hand and tend to their makeshift homes made of corrugated metal, bamboo, plastic tarps, and concrete block. Surprisingly, while their incomes categorize them in what the United Nations would define as either poverty or extreme poverty, and while their lives seem difficult, these people are always happy, gracious, and giving of what limited things they have to give, even to perfect strangers.

It was the quintessential eye-opening experience to see this firsthand during my trip to Guatemala last week, where I had the extraordinary opportunity to visit the small pueblo of Santa Maria de Jesus, perched on a hilltop about 10 kilometers outside of Antigua. The village is much like its neighbors, but with one compelling drawback: It has only one school which, despite being hugely successful, is bursting at the seams.

Jardin de Amor in Santa Maria de Jesus welcomes passersby with artwork done by its children.

Jardin de Amor (Garden of Love) is an education project that enrolls more than 100 children ranging in age from six to sixteen. Two classes are held each day, taught by local mothers or by other volunteers, some from as far away as England and Norway. In addition to being taught math, writing, and science, the children are fed and given the chance to engage in the kind of play that is virtually impossible given the work they must do when not in school (such as working around the house, working in the fields, or watching younger siblings while their parents work).

A parent teacher and a volunteer from England give a math lesson to a younger class.

The project was started only four years ago by a young Guatemalan man, Julio Cesar Garcia Reyes, who saw the need for a free school for the children of Santa Maria de Jesus. While their education is free, parents must provide basic school supplies and commit to volunteering at the school. While Julio has done an extraordinary job of educating these precious children and managing the project, his Garden of Love can’t accommodate any other students. “I have to turn away families because I have no more room here,” he said through our translator during our visit. “My ultimate goal is to raise enough money to buy some new land and to build a bigger school,” he said.

Julio, the young founder of the school, explains how the project operates to our group.

I can’t tell you how impressed I was with what Julio has managed to accomplish in only four years with very limited space and equally limited resources, with the dedication of the volunteers, and with the facilities themselves. That’s why I’m thrilled to report that Big Bunny Workshop will now donate 100 percent of its profits to help Julio operate Jardin de Amor, to help him fund a new school, and to help him improve the lives of the children of Santa Maria de Jesus.

Another younger class enjoys a play period.

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Guatemala here I come!

Next week at this time I’ll be in Guatemala spending time with the organization I donate my profits to, Constru Casa. I’ll be working on building a home or two and learning more about how Big Bunny Workshop can help with educating children there. Most of my time will be spent in rural areas outside Guatemala City. Kids down there are at a distinct disadvantage: Because many are cared for by older siblings while their parents work, and because their parents themselves may be illiterate, about 30 percent of children drop out after the first grade. So something clearly needs to be done to help stop the self-perpetuating cycle of inadequate education. I’m going down there to find out how exactly Big Bunny Workshop can help! I’ll give you a full report when I return!

––Jeffrey Maciejewski

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