So I begin here an exercise of reflection, wrap-up, and evaluation. What have I learned, how have I changed, and what have I "accomplished" since arriving to site 20 months ago? I'll start by recapping one of the projects from which I learned the most, and for which I still owe a great big thanks to those of you back home who made it all possible.
This project started way back in the fall of my first year, in September 2010. I was meeting weekly with the women doing cooking classes in hopes of forming a women's group and making some local friends. After one of these classes Estela, the leader she is, announced that the women had gotten together and come up with an idea. She proposed the project to me, hiked me up to Carolina's house where they showed me how they washed clothes with a rock and slab. I was sold. We wrote up budgets, a timeline, a Peace Corps Partnership grant, and waited. Meanwhile I continued meeting with the women and did talks on household budgeting, healthy food prep, and environmental awareness.
Finally in March, 2011 I went back to site after the State of Siege and the money came through. But the exchange rate had changed and so we raised more (remember this?) Soon after, the first truck of pilas rolled up the rocky path to Tzibal. The pilas were hauled laboriously to the women's houses, one by one. Roofing sheets were purchased and distributed. The cement "planchas" or platforms were made by husbands and brothers and cousins of the women. Drainage ditches dug, filled with rocks and charcoal to prevent groundwater contamination from soapy water.
The project, as hoped, was very much facilitated by the women's group. They organized a buying committee which went with me to get price quotes and purchase materials. They organized the distribution of the materials (which was a significantly complicated task due to the pilas weighing so much) and checked in with me on their progress. The women have become stronger as a group and more involved in the community (the women's group played a huge role in the bottle school construction, from collecting and filling bottles to putting in the bottle walls). The project wasn't perfect, and it wasn't always easy. But in many ways, it went along in the spirit of sustainability that we PCV's are always hoping for. At the end of the day these pilas weren't a hand-out to be taken for granted. The women worked long and hard for them, which assured me that pilas were something they needed and wanted. The project built local capacity and brought the community together. It is more their "logro," their achievement, than it is mine. And that, if nothing else, I can be proud of.
Thank you to all of you who donated to this project. A very special thanks to the Flossmoor Community Church's Outreach Board for their generous support, undying patience, and for agreeing to fund this project through thick and thin. Because of your support, 38 rural Guatemalan families now have pilas to wash their clothes and dishes in, and most importantly have had the experience of planning, designing, and managing a community project. I could not be luckier to have been able to share this experience with them.
(Q'eqchi': thank you!)
|Doña Carmen test-driving her newly installed pila|