Teacher and Students Reunited Across Borders in Fight Against Illiteracy

Fairytale endings will be the subject of discussion at University of the Ozarks Sunday April 6 as the founder and executive director of nonprofit organization Traveling Stories, Emily Moberly, visits to congratulate former students Gail Quinonez and Alejandro Andino on their own success stories. Moberly, a 2008 graduate of John Brown University, will also be presenting at the JBU Board of Directors’ meeting on April 5 in Siloam Springs.

Headquartered in San Diego, Calif., Traveling Stories establishes libraries in developing countries and provides free literacy coaching in the United States. Young booklover Emily Moberly took a leap of faith and formed the nonprofit after discovering an alarming lack of children’s literature while serving as an English teacher in Honduras five years ago.

It was there that she met Quinonez and Andino, third- and fourth-year students at the University of the Ozarks.

“If it weren’t for Ms. Moberly, I never would have gotten into a college in the States,” said Quinonez, a junior studying early childhood education and psychology. “She told me about the Walton International Scholars Program and made me apply. Now, I’m living my dream.”

Founded by Walmart founder Sam Walton and his wife Helen, the Walton International Scholarship Program offers scholarships to students in Central America and Mexico to attend one of three well-respected faith-based Arkansas universities. The program funds 60 scholarships to each of the universities annually.

“Going to college in the United States always seemed impossible to me,” said Andino, a senior studying biology and chemistry. “Ms. Moberly inspired me to realize that nothing is impossible once you decide that you are the author of your life’s greatest chapters.”

But the inspiration wasn’t one-sided. Moberly attributes all of Traveling Stories’ work to the students she met in Honduras back in 2010.

“My year in Honduras was the first time I lived somewhere without access to books,” Moberly said. “There were no real book stores or libraries. Even Amazon wouldn’t deliver at that time. This affected me for the time I was there, but it was even worse for my students. I watched their imaginations start to wither away right at the age when books were opening my eyes to the world.”

When Moberly returned to Honduras after spending Christmas break in California, she brought along a suitcase full of books. She called the collection “Ms. Moberly’s Library” and shared them with each of her classes.

Watching her teenage students fall in love with reading for the first time changed Moberly’s life. She decided to do whatever she could to give that same experience to kids across the planet.

With the help of amazing donors and a steadfast team of volunteers, Traveling Stories has opened seven international libraries and started a thriving Story Tent literacy program in California. More than 5,000 books have shipped to remote villages enjoying communitywide access to the written word for the very first time. Here in the U.S., at least 300 children in San Diego received free literacy coaching through the organization in the last year alone.

Now the story has come full circle. Many of Moberly’s Honduran students are finishing college now and all are supportive of the work she is doing with Traveling Stories.

Quinonez and Andino recently organized students at the University of the Ozarks to raise funds to ship books to the organization’s library in the Philippines.

“Miss Moberly had such a big impact on our attitude toward books and reading,” said Quinonez. “It is really awesome to get to help her and Traveling Stories have that same impact on so many other kids.”

Moberly will be representing Traveling Stories in Arkansas from Friday, April 4 to Monday, April 7, 2014. To schedule a speaking engagement, please call 760-688-6251 or email info@travelingstories.org. Visit www.travelingstories.org/events to see a list of all speaking engagements.