The Path Worth Taking Isn't Straightprint story
September 28, 2012
Over the past two weeks, we’ve been working pretty steadily on both projects I mentioned in my last post. I’ve learned that there is a lot of energy and excitement among the kids in the youth groups, but harnessing and channeling it in a productive way on the kind of timescale I’m used to has been a bit of a challenge – no surprise in a country whose unofficial national motto is “Pura Vida” (essentially, “It’s all gooooood”).
With respect to the recycling center, we’re getting closer to actually building it. We’ve made easy-to-understand flyers explaining the new recycling center and outlining the types of materials that can and cannot be recycled. We wanted to include clear images to accommodate the substantial portion of the population that’s functionally illiterate. We plan to hand these out to as many people and businesses as possible once we’re closer to completing the project. Early this week, I made some rough estimates of the amount of different construction materials we’re going to need (and took care to overestimate). After writing a letter on CEPIA’s letterhead formally requesting donations, some of the kids and I went to several local businesses to ask for their help. Everyone was very nice – CEPIA has a phenomenal reputation in the area, so people are generally willing to help where they can – but we haven’t received any concrete commitments yet. I’m told not to worry, though. Pura Vida.
We’ve also made progress on the eco-tourism business idea. The kids came up with an awesome name for it: their purpose is to create a short tour that incorporates the relationship between the local environment and the indigenous culture, so they came up with “EcoCulTour”. I think it’s great, and when pronounced in Spanish it sounds even better. So we’ve more or less got the whole route figured out (although the trail through the woods needs to be cleared a bit), and this week we brought another CEPIA-sanctioned letter to the two property owners whose land the tour trespasses on. They seemed receptive to the idea and we’re hoping to get their official say-so in the next few days. We obviously can’t make any improvements to the trail until we have the owners’ permission, so that’s next on the agenda and currently on hold. In the mean time, today I walked the existing trail with two of the kids and a couple of field guides to help identify some important trees and other plants along the route. I’m going to try to have them make little wooden signs with scientific, English and Spanish common names that we can stick in the ground at appropriate points along the trail. There’s a long way to go, but I’m optimistic that EcoCulTour can really become something.
In my attempt to balance my desire to get things done with the important component of keeping the youths of the youth groups involved, I’ve learned a few things about empowerment, and ultimately about sustainability. If so determined, I could build the recycling center with whatever help I could enlist tomorrow, and three days from now submit a photo of a well painted shack housing a dozen 55 gallon drums. Similarly, I could probably hack a reasonable trail the moment EcoCulTour gets approval from the property owners, write up an English version of the guide’s talk and start making promotional material. But if the youth groups aren’t completely involved now, there is little hope these projects will endure much beyond my tenure. Although it can be a slow process at times, making these truly be their projects is a critical component of developing sustainable change. One of CEPIA’s primary foci is youth empowerment, and allowing them only to work on the periphery until I hand over my version of their project doesn’t empower anyone, and ultimately doesn’t help the youth, the community or the region. After all, I’m not really here to build a hut for recycling bins or to blaze a trail through the woods. I’m here to help a community make environmental awareness a part of their own development.
Also, go Dad!
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