Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday Mania

I said goodbye to Brian tonight who was heading out on the bus to Jaen, a town on the mouth of the entrance to jungle-land along the Peruvian/Ecuadorian border. The most interesting thing is that Jaen is literally three hours north of here via the mountains, but there is no passage there. So, Brian travels to Jaen for his Cacao project (chocolate bean) every 10 days along the carretera (the “passage”) through the mountains and north for at least 16 hours. The lack of infrastructure of roads is beyond modern imagination—there is the one way in and one way out of here. The buses are absolutely tiring journeys, mentally and physically. One thing you can be assured is that as you pass impatiently around blind corners in the mountains, decal stickers above the drivers head that assure you that “Dios es nuestra guia” (God is our guide!) Whether or not that means anything to you, every driver has this sticker as their “motto” and somehow, you hope that is enough to keep them awake for the mountain switchbacks on gravel pressed roads with no existent guardrails. There is something unnerving about looking over more than a thousand foot cliff several feet from the wheel of the bus, mud eroding away from the constant pelting rain. For the time being, I will remain here with Brian’s Peruvian family and try my best to be a polite houseguest while I hope that Brian indeed is cradled by the bus motto.

Today we hit the ground running after a very quiet weekend. This morning, I had a meeting set for 10am to go look at one of the two final houses for the women’s development center with Nora and Elio, the President of AFIDER. I walked in at 9:30 and was told in a sad whiny voice by the AFIDER girls that there could be no meeting at 10am, but now maybe 11:30am. I suppose not too much of a surprise. At 11am, I was told the meeting had to be moved to 4pm. I did what you need to do in these situations here—be firm in negotiation erring on the side of no negotiation! We called up the woman who was going to show us her house and told her we couldn’t meet her in the afternoon and were dropping consideration of her house, and suddenly 11:30am was an OK time to meet. Go figure.

After some debate on the two spots and discussion with the AFIDER staff, we are moving toward a house that is close to the AFIDER office, because of its spacious room inside and outside for the women’s development center; there are several spacious rooms inside, a back covered patio for classes, a large garden, an indoor kitchen and a more traditional “horno” outside, an adobe mud oven for bread making. Here are a couple picts of both the outside and the inside, with Nora showing you the entrance to one of the women’s class areas. There are still details to work out, but Nora and I spent the evening working on the proposed budget for the center. It looks like we can get the place totally up and running, rented, stocked and supplied, for about $5000 in 2009. I am excited about our upcoming Seeds of Hope event in late February that is focused solely on connecting people in the U.S. with the opportunity to help birth this space. I want each person who gives toward this project to know that they are indeed in the fabric of this place, a home with open doors to women to create their own personal power.

Nora and I circled back to G&C, the health promotion organization, to ask them to submit a proposal for doing year-long health promotion with some of our families that wish to participate. DiscoverHope is an advocate of working with women who want to be part of our classes, and as such, we never make classes compulsory. Instead, we build a culture of participation and hold women to high standards of being present once they say they are committed. We are excited to see if this proposal is sufficient for our health ed. grant on the U.S. side. Once again, we were impressed with G&C’s thoughtful process and desire to do audience analysis with our women to tailor their yearlong promotion in respiratory infection, malnutrition, and family planning. G&C doesn’t just give cookie-cutter programs, and Nora and I both really respect that.

It’s been a work heavy day and my eyes are quite heavy. Tomorrow we will host “Bread and Coffee with the Director,” a fun gathering for the women to come have free coffee and bread where they can share their feedback with me and I can ask them about what they really want this year. This event was another Nora suggestion, which is just another example of how amazing our Program Manager is!

To collective creation of personal power. MM

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