Month 2 is here and gone! Not a ton has happened this last month but things have been busy enough in Fila Naranjo to keep me ocupada (and emotionally stable).
Courts for Kids
During the last week of June I went to help a nearby volunteer with one of her projects working with Courts for Kids. Courts for Kids is a US-based nonprofit that partners with international organizations and communities to help disadvantaged areas build courts for outdoor sports.
Along with some local community members and other Peace Corps Volunteers, a group of volunteer high school students from Louisiana came to help build the court. The majority of the days were spent making and laying cement (ain’t no easy task) and in the evening there were cultural activities like zumba classes and soccer. One afternoon a pig was killed for dinner, which I’ve come to learn is traditional for celebrations and big events here.
Medicinal Plant Seminar
The women’s group that I work with wants to grow medicinal plants to use and sell as herbal teas and natural health remedies. Last week, a local connesuir and his wife gave us a seminar about medicinal plants. They were both very…enthusiastic about life and holistic health. Although they brought a zesty passion for medicinal plants, I felt like all their advice was a bit discredited when they swore by drinking their own pee in the morning, using it in their hair, and to cleanse their faces. It’s great for blemishes, apparently. When I asked him whyyyyy he did that he said “because it’s something our bodies produce and we should use the things are bodies give us.”
Or, sir, the things our bodies produce are toxic and should be wasted. I don’t know. Maybe he’s right and I’m wrong. I’m no scientist.
Two Birthday Parties (Two!)
The difficult thing about basically living in a nuclear family (everyone in my community is related) is that there’s so many darn birthday parties to go to. I’ve been to 4 so far and I’ve only been here for 2 months. You do the math.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m just happy to be invited somewhere. Anywhere. They just tend to be awkward. Everyone just kind of sits around in silence while we blast wild, traditional bachata music from the boom box and wait impatiently between rice & doritos and cake. Someone once said something about growth happening in uncomfortable situations right…? Right?!
Also, parties here are generally sooo long. The last birthday party I went to was 5 hours long. We ate lunch, then we had candy, then ice cream, then bread and coffee, then cake, then a pinata, and then presents. Gah. GAH. Embrace the culture Tily, embrace it.
I Organized a Workshop
As I talk more with the women in the group that I’m working with, I’ve noticed that a lot of the members have different visions and project ideas for the future of the group and their finca (farm). In an effort to get everyone on a similar page and encourage them to think about their project ideas more in detail I put together a small project workshop where everyone would have an opportunity to talk more about the future of the association.
We drew and shared pictures of what we each envisioned the finca and group to look like in the next few years, which was really fun and interesting to observe. Sometimes these women are so busy working and taking care of their families and homes, they don’t have a chance or an outlet to express themselves creatively.
After our art sesh, we divided into two groups and brainstormed different project ideas for the upcoming year and discussed the steps we would need to take to accomplish these projects.
The thing is, all of these women have spent their lives growing and picking coffee and working in small-based agriculture. The majority of them didn’t have the opportunity, capacity, or money to attend university or continue their education after high school. But, just like many women around the world, they too have dreams of accomplishing something bigger and making their own money from their own work.
The women that I work with know what they want to do, they just don’t know how to do it. So oftentimes, this is where the role of a Community Economic Development Peace Corps Volunteer fits in. We’re here to guide the groups and organizations that we work with; to help them with organizational management, development, and putting their ideas onto paper and into a reality.
After finishing our brainstorm, we created a work plan (plan de trabajo) through the end of August. There’s still so much organizing, planting, cleaning, budgeting, and administrative work that needs to be done it’s almost enough to keep us busy for the next year, if not two. But, I’m pleased to have made a small step forward with this group in terms of goal setting and organizational development.
At this point, in my personal and professional life, I’m taking things in strides and chippin’ away slowly, taking it one month at a time.
Until August / Hasta agosto