The association and consultants
Recently, we began working with consultants. These consultants are paid by the largest mine in Peru, which is in the mountains near me. This mine is required to spend a certain amount of money on the community, and these consultants are part of that deal, aimed at improving the local artisan associations.
These consultants have been great partners for me and I’ve been able to learn quite a bit from them. One of the problems I have is the communication barrier…but I also have the white/gringo barrier. Things I say can be easily dismissed because I must not understand. The world is a different place for them. Or…even worse, most look at me as a way to get money for free. There was an earthquake here in 1970 that killed over 100,000 people and destroyed about 85% of the area. Afterwards, this area received a lot of aid and created a generation of dependents.
These consultants are examples of educated Peruvians whom have good jobs and act responsibly. They do not have a communication barrier and obviously understand the Peruvian culture better than I do…albeit they are from the coast of Peru.
However, one benefit I have is time. I will be here until Aug 2009…while these consultants are only here for 5 months. One of the problems with aid work is just that, outsiders come in for a short time, do work that others are not willing to do, make/or give them some money, and then leave. After they leave, everything reverts back. Time and patience are needed to make lasting impacts. (pic: our electric oven...gets to 1000 degrees celsius)
Patience has always been the area my mom tells me I need to work on…and in the Peace Corps, it is vital. A source of anxiety for me is the feeling of inaction and/or incompetence. As I mentioned, I have yet to really see my impact. I will not, however, do work that my artisans are not willing to do or learn. Luckily, there are a few that want to improve…and I spend my time with them.
Currently, we’re working on changing the rules of the association to get rid of free-riders. We might start a business within the association to get around those who expect money when they haven’t worked all month. We’re also teaching inventory and book-keeping. This past Monday we went through the entire center and took inventory of what is made and being made. Also, I’m working on a catalog and a website which I’m teaching the president of the association. I get a new idea everyday about different products or ways to market them…but I need to wait for the infrastructure of the association…can’t build a city on nothing. (pic: Frank and I in Tarica's soccer field...we were playing frisbee)
Outside of the association I am working with the president of the youth group for my town. He is paid by the municipality and is running different programs for the youth (below 25 yrs). I’ll begin teaching English as soon as the room is ready…which could be 2 weeks or 2 months. There is also a group of women weaver’s that I hope to work with as well in the near future.
In my spare time, which is usually ample but less than I imagined before joining Peace Corps, I try to finish a book every week or two. I recently bought a guitar, which is great for passing time and relieving stress…and I’m trying to learn to sing, a sizeable undertaking for me. An even loftier goal is to write a book while I’m here…though it’s a lot harder than I anticipated and it might not get finished during my time here…
Thanks for reading.