Frustrations and Successes

Trip Start Feb 08, 2006
Trip End Apr 2008

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Monday, April 2, 2007

Buenos días. ¿Cómo va todo? Aquí todo bien. Pues, más o menos. Sigo trabajando, aprendiendo. Ya tengo un mes desde que volví de las vacaciones y para ser honesta ha sido difícil. Pero voy a perseverar. Sé que puedo lograr algo aquí, así que ¡lo voy a hacer!...
Since returning from a fabulous vacation in Guadalajara and San Diego I have remained busy managing existing projects (English class, book clubs and ecology group).  And although productive and beneficial to the community, I am feeling the desire to work beyond these endeavors and find projects that generate income and involve more community members (hmm...wonder why, perhaps because that's what I was sent here to do. Ha!) Unfortunately, this is much more difficult than it appears.
First, there is the problem of cooperation.  Promoting solidarity in a community of 150 has proved much more challenging (and frustrating) than I initially assumed. Familial loyalties, ancient grudges, and apathy have been the most problematic adversaries.  Yet, I have not surrendered! Instead, I am rethinking my strategy.  On Saturday I attended the monthly meeting of the Junta Parroquial (elected town officials) in order to increase my collaboration with the institution and hopefully encourage the development of an income generating project in Cerro Azul; specifically, one in which environmental and economic needs are reconciled. It went quite well, and I will get to the details in a bit.
Second. I consistently encounter the notion that funds are a fundamental prerequisite to any project.  "¿Cómo podemos lograr algo aquí, Lisa, si no tenemos plata primero?" This way of thinking appears to preclude any and all ventures I might propose. However, I am confident that I can persuade them to raise such funds if a solid project is designed. Of course, this will first require defeat of the other challenge, cooperation...
Ok, so those are the obstacles. What have been my successes since my last entry?
The library.  Las muchachas from one of the books clubs have formed a small committee to develop a community library in the elementary school.  We have collected several books here in Cerro Azul and are working on organizing all of them.  In the coming weeks, in collaboration with the women's movement, we will begin a book collection project in Machala. Yey!
These same girls raised $40 in order to buy more books for their club.  We will be reading "Daughter of Fortune" by Isabel Allende. I managed to get 7 copies ordered through the internet and sent to the address of a friend of a friend headed down here next week!
 I also bought 12 of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" for the other book club using the funds raised by the children themselves as well as a donation from Kiwanis Club in Kingman, Arizona. (Thanks again!). The books have been handed out and we're reading again!
And finally, a story which may not yet be tallied as a success, but certainly a step in the right direction: the rudimentary formation of a community organization to address social, economic and environmental issues. On Saturday night I attended the town meeting and gave a small talk about the importance of environmental protection and its direct affects on the community. I suggested the formation of an Eco Club or commission dedicated to addressing environmental issues and creating a community environmental education program. They seemed interested (and even threw in a few ideas of their own!) And on Sunday a second meeting was held to form such a group. Through a bit of coaxing on my part, they elected three coordinators and discussed the objectives and overall purpose of the organization. Although I was expecting a group dedicated solely to saving the precious natural resources of the area, they took the initiative (good thing!) to discuss a larger range of issues and ultimately decided upon a much grander purpose for the group.
I will be meeting with the three coordinators (all women!) next week to discuss the topics that should be addressed in the next meeting...
Well, I think that will have to be all for now. I have included several pictures that are sure to relay many more of my recent experiences. Hasta luego.
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