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L-EHS Spanish club collecting money for Books for Ecuador project
Queen of Water
Mara Virginia Farinango (left) is the inspiration for the novel, The Queen of Water, by Laura Resau (right). L-EHS Spanish club is collecting money for books for the school where Farinango is the guidance counselor. - photo by CI File Photo

Lugoff-Elgin High School’s Spanish club is helping to collect money for books for Colegio Isaac Jesus Batera, a school in Ecuador.

This isn’t just any school, Colegio Isaac Jesus Batera is the school where Queen of Water subject María Virginia Farinango works as a guidance counselor.

"The students who read Queen of Water feel a personal connection with Maria and her school," L-EHS Spanish I teacher Gaye Howard said.

Students met Farinango when she visited L-EHS a year ago along with Queen of Water author Laura Resau. The visit was a result of the school’s new reading initiative where teachers are asked to incorporate literature into their teaching subjects. Howard selected Queen of Water to incorporate with her curriculum.

Howard kept in touch with Farinango after her initial visit which led to a second visit.

"I’ve become personal friends with Maria … she came to speak to the students a second time this fall."

During this second visit, something caught Farinango’s eye.

"She was fascinated that our students had silence substantial reading at the beginning of the school day," Howard said also noting Maria was amazed at the access the students had to books.

"She mentioned to me that at her school they don’t have books for students … They have the bare essentials -- chairs, desk and chalkboards. There is no library," Howard said,

"Maria said, ‘It is my dream that we could do this at my school."

That conversation stuck with Howard, especially because of how much she personally loves reading.

"I just kept thinking about that and my love of reading. My mom taught me to love to read … I proposed to the other Spanish teachers that we began the project," Howard said.

The project, Books for Ecuador, would assist Farinango in her quest to provide reading books for the students at her school.

"Books for Ecuador project have been received very well by students. (Spanish club members) collect the money and bring the jar back. They are excited,"

"Maria has purchased carts she could put the books on and roll from room to room. She hopes perhaps students could take books home to read … She is also working hard on her end to generate funds, we are just a piece of the puzzle," Howard said,

"I have no doubt the project will be a success. She has singlehandedly accomplished so many things despite her hardships as a child. She wants to make a difference at her school."

Farinango, whose story is told in Queen of Water, taught herself to read after being taught the alphabet by one of her captors. After escaping her captivity, Farinango went to elementary school as a teenager and was soon able to graduate from high school.

Howard says she wants students to learn how to give to others from this project.

"Having access to books is something we take for granted in our culture … Students learning to give without receiving anything in return is something we had a chance to teach. There are so many people in the world who need help. We want students to realize they can help to change the world."

Howard also hopes the students realize the places reading can take them.

"I love literacy and the world it opens up. I think that is what Mr. Thomason is trying to open up through this literacy initiative. Students can feel a personal connection through literacy. They can go to other cultures or countries they couldn’t otherwise."

The community is invited to take part in the Books for Ecuador project. The check will be presented to Farinango in early April.

"We’ve extended this to the second week of April to make out a check to give Maria to purchase books in Ecuador. We will receive photos of the students with the books"

Donations can be made out to Lugoff Elgin High School with attention to Books of Ecuador.

Contact Howard for more information at