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Monday
Jul042011

Movie Nights and Thoughts about Development

Unsurprisingly my educational experiences in La Manzanilla extend beyond watching lightning crack over the ocean, delighting in children racing across the field get to after school English class a half hour late, and discovering that geckos make sweet little kissing noises (“bescados”... “besos”). I am also learning much daily, through observation and conversation, about development projects. I should probably have Stephanie, a student of urban and rural development, post about this, for my knowledge is rather elementary. However, it turns out that learning about international development and specifically the work of grassroots non-profits within it has become a goal of my time here.


When I was learning about LCEF this spring, their grassroots approach to community development stood out. Being here, I see that LCEF's existence within the La Manz community is indeed entirely dependent on conversation and involvement with the local people. The foundation only provides the support and opportunities voiced by the community. They also employ as many local people as possible, not only to create jobs, but also to add strength and consistency to the programs that cannot come from temporary volunteers or foreign residents, even those who have lived here for years.

 

The idea of asking a community to generate ideas and needs makes so much sense, but after an afternoon-long conversation with two doctors/medical faculty from San Diego State last weekend, I learned that it seems a difficult concept for many to apply. The women were in La Manzanilla doing Sex-Ed talks in the middle school, and working in the local clinic. They came here with much knowledge, but did not begin their programs until after long discussions with school board members and parents had decided upon the topic for their adolescent health talks.

 

In one Saturday afternoon over a snack of coconut meat with lime and chili, Maria, the director of SDS's programs, shared handfuls of both ridiculous and successful stories from her involvement in many health projects worldwide. Those that stuck the most in my mind were almost obscene in nature. Stories of development groups building latrines on the tops of hills in countries with torrential rainy seasons; of researchers giving condoms to prostitutes who would be beaten if they tried to use them, who said if they were given alternative ways to feed their families, the problem would be solved; of latrine building in countries where going to the bathroom indoors was unheard of—the latrines were soon surrounded by piles, and eventually the developers realized they should build trenches instead.

 

Last week, after purchasing a DVD player and postering the jardín, we had our first weekly English movie night at the Centro Educativo. This ended up consisting of Stephanie, Nancy, and I talking for an hour or so while the DVD menu played and replayed, before heading home. Nancy had a laugh as she recalled our conversations with Maria. We did intend to ask our Adult and Secundaria classes if they would be interested in a Friday night movie, and what time would work best for them, but amidst other concerns and class happenings, this got pushed aside.

 

Movie night, round two, took place this Friday. It had been pouring all day, and I was the only attendee. There is always the uncertainty, when planning for a community of which you are on the perifery, to know whether or not it will take off.  Nancy informed me after what I thought was our second "failure," that it is always necessary to wait a reasonable amount of time because it can take a while for things to catch on in La Manzanilla. She says that often, you might be offering exactly what the community is asking for, and they know it's happening, but it's not something they're accustomed to doing, so they might not show up for three weeks.  It makes the first period of offering something new a bit more challenging when the culture is like this. Thanks for the insight Nance! I'll talk more about the programs around town and be patient.

 

-Kelly

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