Friday, November 21, 2008

Super sweet!

Even though Mat just sent out an update, I thought I would expand on it. Yes, we have found a community that is interested in working with us. We had just about given up on having work until January, when our cowboy of a docter came through for us! Yeah baby! The community is about 5 miles away and yes we will be walking it. We had an initial meeting with the commuunity last Sunday to explain the project. Instead of waiting to find out if they wanted to work with us, we took a vote on the spot and bam! we had work. We returned the very next day to start on the encuestas (surveys) of the homes. It is a good way to meet people in a more personal way, plus we needed to know the condition of the homes, what kinds of structures they do or do not have, etc. The community has been promised a lot in the past and therefore are still weary of us: Not everyone is convinced that we will deliver or even return again. Due to all of that, we were only allowed to take surveys of a third of the homes. After a while I am sure they will let us finish with the surveys because in order to get money for projects we need to use the data collected from them and only the people that participated in the surveys will be able to receive the works.

So what did we find out about the community: they need everything. Nobody in the whole community has a latrine or efficient wood burning stove and most could use cement floors. What would benefit the community most/what will they want most? Hard to say at this point. Everyone goes to the bathroom in "aire libre"or as I like to say, pop a squat any old place (which PCVs are not above doing at all-it is an integral part of our lives here, especially while working in the country). But could latrines improve their health? Probably. I am kind of thinking the community will want the more efficient stoves. Respiratory infections are the biggest problem here. Plus, this community does not have any trees left on the hills and must travel to another community to get the firewood (which is hell-a expensive) to use on either their open fires or comals (which are used for tortilla making). Another fun fact that makes me think they will want the stoves is that it is a community of women. Of the 30 families, 20 of them have the fathers in the states (New Jersey to be exact).

Obviously, we will be dialouging more with the people and listed above are nothing but my tentative guesses. Plus we really will not be building for a while and will focus on education. When we do build, it will be all about collaboration. We will be working with and training the leaders of the COCODE (or the people that will be able to solitic money for grants) on how to write grants and where to look for them. And while we work with them on the grant that we hope to initiate, it will be the COCODE that actually writes it. As I am pretty weary of "development" from outsiders, our program really seems to try to empower the actual communities. The whole community will help get the materials and be a part of the labor-including the women. Everyone will need to know how to use and maintain the works! This will all be coupled with education too! And this way we can avoid having latrines turned into bodegas or tiendas.

Mat and I are also starting to collaborate on an education project with one of our counterparts. We want to train all of the COCODES from every aldea in our muni on how to have water that is safe for drinking. We may also be doing the training outselves in every community! That is almost 70-talk about having work! Everyone has running water in this municipality but people drink it right from the chorro (faucet) and it is sooo dirty! Sometimes it is slightly chocolate colored and one day we even had little worms crawling up out of our bathroom sink! Just imagine...

Right now is festival time so we should have some great pictures soon. And we will be avoid thinking about missing you all by spending Thanksgiving at the beautiful Lago Atitlán. We hope to see pictures of the fabulous day from you all! Miss and love you all!

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